The Observer editorial board has interviewed candidates and others for contested 2017 races in Charlotte and Mecklenburg. Go to charlotteobserver.com for fuller endorsements for mayor, City Council, CMS school board and the school bonds package.
Democrat Vi Lyles and Republican Kenny Smith are two-term City Council members who would both make capable mayors. Lyles is a city government veteran whose experiences give her a deep understanding of how the city and its budget work. Smith brings a fiscal conservatism to the council that we appreciate, and he notably defused tensions in the crowd at a City Council meeting amid the Keith Scott unrest.
We give the nod to Lyles, who we think is best-suited to lead Charlotte as it works through issues of economic mobility and police-community relations.
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City Council at-large
Voters will fill four seats. We recommend Julie Eiselt, John Powell, Braxton Winston and James “Smuggie” Mitchell.
Eiselt, a Democrat, is an active, engaged council member who does her homework on a wide swath of issues.
Powell, a Republican, has served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment and says he would be a unifier who gets along well with council members.
Winston, a Democrat, won attention for his peaceful but forceful role in the Scott demonstrations. He would bring an intelligent, healthy skepticism to the council.
Mitchell, a Democrat, knows city government well and is a consistent cheerleader for the city.
In this heavily Democratic district north and west of uptown, Democrat Justin Harlow would bring fresh ideas and energy to a district that could use a forceful voice on the council.
Democrat Lawana Mayfield has been an effective council member. She is an independent thinker representing west and southwest Charlotte, breaking with a majority of Democrats occasionally on issues.
Republican Tariq Scott Bokhari, a former banking executive who launched his own financial technology company, has a firm grasp of the issues facing this south Charlotte district.
Republican Ed Driggs, who is retired from a career in finance, has been a thoughtful voice on the council and a consistent and capable representative for his south Charlotte constituents.
Board of Education District 1
Two-term incumbent Rhonda Lennon has struck a good balance between representing her north Meck constituents and working for the good of CMS as a whole.
Incumbent Thelma Byers-Bailey and retired principal Lenora Shipp both have deep roots in west Charlotte and CMS. We give the nod to Shipp and her experience in low-income schools.
CMS parent and former Teach for America educator Janeen Bryant displays a keen grasp of education issues and would be a smart and passionate advocate for equity in this northeast Charlotte district.
Education activist and former CMS parent Carol Sawyer possesses a detailed knowledge of not only CMS policy but schools in her east Charlotte district.
Retired CPA Margaret Marshall has volunteered in CMS for decades and has the intellect, energy, heart and experience to be a highly effective school board member.
We appreciate Allen Smith’s innovative ideas about tackling diversity, but Republican Sean Strain would represent the many in his south Mecklenburg district who champion the neighborhood school structure.
We understand why North Meck residents feel the $922 million bonds proposal underserves their needs, but the package addresses urgent concerns throughout the district and shouldn’t be delayed with a no vote.