O-Pinion

She beat him by 34,000 votes. But he’s likely to stay in charge.

Mecklenburg commissioner Pat Cotham, left, beat Chairman Trevor Fuller, right, by 34,000 votes Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean commissioners will make her chairman.
Mecklenburg commissioner Pat Cotham, left, beat Chairman Trevor Fuller, right, by 34,000 votes Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean commissioners will make her chairman. File photo

Will Pat Cotham, as the leading vote-getter, be the new chair of the Mecklenburg County board of commissioners?

Longtime tradition would suggest so, but recent history suggests commissioners will ignore the voters when they decide on their leader next month.

Cotham, a Democrat, finished first, by a lot, among four candidates Tuesday night. She won 266,584 votes, well ahead of fellow Democrat and current Chairman Trevor Fuller, at 232,319, and the third Democratic incumbent, Ella Scarborough, who was just behind Fuller at 228,702. Republican Jeremy Brasch lagged well behind.

For decades, the leading vote-getter was tapped to be the board’s chair. That person is the face of the county at public events and runs the commissioners’ meetings.

Cotham was made chair after winning the most votes in 2012, but she ruffled Democratic feathers with her independence and was dethroned a year later by Fuller in a 5-4 vote. She won the most votes again in 2014, but commissioners renamed Fuller chair despite his finishing third. Cotham’s lead over Fuller and Scarborough was even larger in Tuesday’s voting than it was in 2014.

Voters have spoken in three straight elections. They have backed Cotham strongly over Fuller. She has earned the role of chair. Will commissioners kick off their new biennium by ignoring the voters’ will?

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