Editorial board endorsements: How we see county races

The Observer editorial board


Five of the nine seats on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners are on the primary ballot. Here’s how we see those races.


Democrat Damiko Faulkner, a political newcomer, is challenging the three incumbent at-large Democrats – Trevor Fuller, Pat Cotham and Ella Scarborough. Three of the four will advance to face a single Republican in the general election in November. We recommend the three incumbents.

Fuller, who chairs the board and seeks a third term, has been a consistent voice pushing the county to address its status as one of the worst in the nation for economic mobility. He helped create the Opportunity Task Force, a 20-member group of community leaders that expects to present recommendations in October. It’s part of his consistent focus on battling poverty. Fuller is a lawyer with a law degree from Georgetown.

Cotham was the board chair before being ousted by Fuller. As a Democrat who doesn’t always follow the party line, she offers an important perspective. Her frequent questions of how things are done can be a thorn in the county staff’s side, but generally a valuable one. She is active in the community, tirelessly attending events and listening closely to constituents.

Scarborough is finishing her first term on the board following her service on the Charlotte City Council. She is well-versed in local government and has been a voice in favor of education, the poor and the homeless.

Faulkner, a pastor at a small Presbyterian church, speaks in generalities and does not demonstrate much familiarity with county government. He said he is a better choice than his opponents because of his “ability to be relational with people.” He says he wants to fight inequality but could not suggest specifics.

Faulkner does not offer a compelling case for his candidacy. Fuller, Cotham and Scarborough deserve renomination.

District 2

We make no endorsement in this westside district, where incumbent Vilma Leake is challenged by two newcomers in the Democratic primary. The winner faces no Republican opposition.

Leake is a hard-working commissioner who shows up at community events large and small.

She also suffers from a well-earned reputation for cantankerousness. She remains a prickly firebrand, too quick to attack those who disagree with her. That’s an unhelpful trait for an advocate of struggling neighborhoods that need political bridges built, not burned.

Lula Dualeh is a smart, energetic community organizer making her first bid for office. The 28-year-old Phillip O. Berry Academy and UNC Charlotte graduate shows great promise, and voices a heartfelt desire to help her westside neighbors. Should this campaign fall short, we hope she deepens her civic resume and seeks another chance to serve.

We also congratulate Angela Edwards, a 54-year-old minister, for making an admirable run to show other low-income citizens the value of community engagement.

District 6

Republican incumbent Bill James, who has held the seat for 20 years, faces a challenge from fellow Republican Joel Levy. Levy is well-suited for the role and we recommend him.

James is a budget watchdog. We value that along with his general propensity for transparency in government. But his obsession with and animosity toward African-Americans, gays and other minorities is divisive, hurtful and unflattering to his district.

Levy, manager of a municipal bonds portfolio at TIAA, brings the same conservative credentials and financial acumen without the arsonist impulse. As a past assistant treasurer for the city of Charlotte and the vice chair of the Board of Equalization and Review, Levy has direct experience with the kinds of issues commissioners confront.

Those who have worked closely with him describe him as smart, principled and talented on issues of public finance.

Others have also found him easy to work with, and he comes across to us as someone who, while solidly conservative, listens to other perspectives and works with others for the common good.