Democrats sweep City Council at-large races

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comNovember 5, 2013 

  • Results D - Michael D. Barnes →  15.3% D - Vi Alexander Lyles →  14.99% D - David Howard →  14.72% D - Claire Green Fallon →  13.19% R - Ken Harris →  11.69% R - Vanessa Faura →  9.49% R - Dennis Peterson →  9.27% R - Mark Frietch →  9.16% L - Eric A. Cable →  2.12% (168 of 168 precincts reporting)

Democrats retained their supermajority on the Charlotte City Council on Tuesday, sweeping all four at-large seats and giving newly elected Democratic mayor Patrick Cannon a 9-2 majority.

Unlike two years ago, the Democratic sweep wasn’t that surprising, as the city’s demographics continue to move in a direction favorable to the party. The biggest drama on Election Day was which Democrat would finish first and gain an advantage to become mayor pro tem.

In the September primary, Michael Barnes finished first, surprising at-large incumbent David Howard.

Barnes, who is a District 4 representative running at large for the first time, finished first again. He had 15.3 percent of the vote, narrowly edging Vi Lyles and incumbent Howard.

Barnes is a friend and political ally of Cannon’s.

Incumbent Claire Fallon, who was first elected two years ago, retained her seat by finishing fourth. She was in a tight battle with Republican Ken Harris for the final spot but pulled away to win the at-large seat.

In the mayor’s race, Republican Edwin Peacock did well in fundraising, collecting more money than Cannon.

But the four GOP at-large candidates – Harris, Vanessa Faura, Mark Frietch and Dennis Peterson – struggled to raise money. As of the most recent campaign finance report, the four Republicans had raised just under $50,000 combined.

The four Democrats running at-large raised roughly $330,000, according to the most recent reports.

In one debate, Peacock acknowledged that Democrats were likely to keep their 9-2 majority.

It’s unclear how Cannon will work with his new council.

When former Mayor Anthony Foxx won re-election two years ago, he started his second term with a 9-2 majority. But the council quickly got mired in fights over issues such as the Capital Investment Plan and the streetcar.

Lyles, a former assistant city manager, said Tuesday night that her priorities are creating jobs and advancing the 2030 transit plan, which lacks money to be finished.

“What can we do to get good jobs in the community?” Lyles said. “And we have to look at the 2030 transit plan to have connections between job centers and neighborhoods.”

She added she wants to “collaborate and work with everyone.”

Howard said he wants to focus on jobs and transportation in the coming year.

In addition to trying to find ways to fund a streetcar extension, the city hopes to build a commuter rail line to Lake Norman and some form of rapid transit on Independence Boulevard.

Charlotte is now the country’s 17th-largest city, but winning the low-turnout election depended, in part, on personal relationships.

At the Barringer Academic Center on the city’s heavily Democratic west side, retiree Clyde Gatewood said he supported Democrats – especially Howard, whom he knew as a child.

“I have watched him grow up,” Gatewood said. “He’s a straight-up guy.”

Nearby, Ronald Taylor handed out campaign postcards for his sister, Lyles. Taylor, who lives in Columbia, S.C., said he was part of a two-car caravan of friends and family members who came from South Carolina to work for her.

A number of Republican voters in south Charlotte said they supported local Republicans in part because of their frustration over national Democrats.

“I don’t like the Democratic attitude throughout the country,” said Jerry Aiken, a business owner who voted at Holy Covenant Church on Sharon Road. “The whole political mindset is if you have a problem, spend more money.”

He said he felt the streetcar under construction through uptown is an “ego trip.”

He said the city should spend the money instead on roads or light-rail. He questioned whether the streetcar would spark any economic development when the initial line will run from Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Much of the buildings in that corridor are for government or educational purposes.

“Logically it makes no sense,” he said.

But there weren’t enough Republicans in the city for the GOP to break through and win an at-large seat. Republicans are only 23 percent of the city’s registered voters, while just under 50 percent are Democrats.

Libertarian candidate Eric Cable was in ninth place out of nine candidates.

There were four contested council district races Tuesday. Democrats won the District 2, 3 and 4 races. The Republicans won the District 7 race.

Beth Pickering, an at-large council member, didn’t reach the general election. She finished fifth in the Democratic primary in September and will leave council in December.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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