All the Observer’s picks for Charlotte’s primary races

The Observer editorial board

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, left, Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and NC state senator Joel Ford participate in a Mayoral Debate last week.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, left, Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and NC state senator Joel Ford participate in a Mayoral Debate last week. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

There’s rain and apathy in the forecast for Tuesday’s municipal primaries in Charlotte. That’s too bad, because there’s a lot at stake.

In most City Council districts, Tuesday’s winner will either run unopposed or be heavily favored in the general election. In the mayor’s race, the incumbent is facing a stiff challenge from within her own party.

Municipal elections have historically poor turnouts. To help you buck that tradition, the Observer has interviewed candidates and researched races before offering our mayoral endorsements and council recommendations last month. Here’s a shorter recap:


Incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts faces a strong Democratic primary field that includes two formidable candidates in City Council member Vi Lyles and N.C. Sen. Joel Ford.

We think Lyles, who has more than 30 years of municipal experience, would provide the thoughtful leadership and ability to work with the council that Roberts has lacked in these unsteady times for Charlotte.

Vi Lyles

In the Republican primary, we recommend council member Kenny Smith, who has shown an impressive ability to work with the council’s Democratic majority without sacrificing a more conservative approach to city government.

Kenny Smith handout photo

Charlotte City Council at-large

In the Democratic primary, we recommend Julie Eiselt, Ryan McGill, Braxton Winston and James (Smuggie) Mitchell.

Eiselt, the top vote-getter in 2015, is passionate about council work, asks smart questions and is attuned to the needs and concerns of voters from all parts of the city.

McGill is a promising newcomer with an impressive background who sees himself as a bridge builder.

Winston is a Davidson graduate who won recognition for his peaceful but forceful role in the Keith Scott demonstrations. He wants to help the city act on the Opportunity Task Force report.

Mitchell has served on the council for 16 years. He knows the city well and is a consistent cheerleader for it.

District 1

We recommend Larken Egleston in this district that includes Myers Park, Dilworth and some of east Charlotte. Egleston has been deeply involved in politics and civic affairs and has a sophisticated understanding of the issues facing the city.

District 2

In this north and west Charlotte district, we give a slight nod to longtime community leader J’Tanya Adams over Justin Harlow, who has been active in community organizations since moving here almost four years ago.

District 4

Greg Phipps has shown encouraging signs in his second term serving this northeast Charlotte district. He’s more responsive to constituents, and colleagues consider him to be thoughtful and active behind the scenes.

District 5

Longtime east Charlotte resident Gary Young knows his district and the council well. He would advocate for workforce training programs and other efforts to improve employment on the east side.

District 6

Tariq Scott Bokhari stands out for his service on city committees and thorough grasp of issues affecting Charlotte and his south Charlotte district.