Two vie to replace Mitchell in District 2

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comOctober 30, 2013 

For the first time in 14 years, James “Smuggie” Mitchell isn’t running to represent District 2 in northwest Charlotte, an area that stretches from low-income areas near uptown to affluent neighborhoods near Mountain Island Lake.

Alvin “Al” Austin, a Democrat, will face Republican Darryl Broome in Tuesday’s election.

Austin, 53, is a major gifts officer for Johnson C. Smith University. He finished first in the September primary but was forced into a runoff election because he didn’t clear 40 percent. In the runoff, he easily defeated Brenda Stevenson.

Broome, 52, has lived in District 2 nearly all of his life. He is a real estate specialist with Verizon Wireless and has previously run for elected office before, including a bid for Mecklenburg County commissioner.

Austin has the advantage, based on voter demographics. District 2 is heavily Democratic, and Mitchell often won his races with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Democrats currently have a 9-2 advantage on City Council.

In addition to races for four at-large seats, there are also contested elections for districts 3, 4 and 7. Three districts were decided in the September primary.

The two candidates met Tuesday at a WTVI/League of Women Voters debate where they discussed the streetcar, economic development and public safety.

The streetcar, which has been a divisive issue in the city, would run along Beatties Ford Road, in the heart of District 2.

Broome said he supports the streetcar – so long as property taxes aren’t used. That is the position of Democratic mayoral candidate Patrick Cannon and some other council members.

He also said he favors the north corridor commuter rail line to Lake Norman over the streetcar. The commuter line is also in limbo, due to a lack of money.

“I’m more of a fan of the commuter line, it’s more for the common worker,” Broome said.

Austin said the project is an important “connector for uptown.” He said the city’s inability to land a recent federal grant won’t stop the project, and that the city can apply for additional grants in the future.

When asked about how to create jobs, Austin said he would work closely with the Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership to ensure that companies that are considering relocating to Charlotte would tour District 2.

Broome said the biggest impediment to job creation in District 2 is crime.

“We need to work with police so people feel comfortable in their community,” he said.

The location of affordable housing has been a contentious issue, especially in areas such as District 2, which have numerous subsidized apartments and housing developments.

Austin said he supports the city’s newly passed affordable housing policy, which attempts to disperse low-income housing throughout the city. Broome said the bigger problem is that people don’t have well-paying jobs.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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