Charlotte’s city council met Monday night for the first time since the arrest and resignation of former mayor Patrick Cannon. In less than 20 minutes, the council agreed to hold off on appointing a new mayor for one week. WFAE’s Ben Bradford breaks down the jockeying that will take place in the meantime.
City attorney Bob Hagemann told the council they—and only they—can appoint a new mayor by law. He or she has to be 21, has to live in Charlotte, and from the same political party as the official they are replacing. Cannon is a Democrat.
The council could ask the state legislature to pass a law that would create a special election. Some supporters of last year’s Republican mayoral candidate, Edwin Peacock, held signs in the audience calling for that.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, a Democrat, shot it down.
"Nobody believes that we need the state legislature to tell us how to fill a vacancy on the city council," Barnes said.
Republican councilman Ed Driggs agrees with Barnes.
"I recognize the frustration of people who are looking at the prospect of an unelected mayor for 20 months, but at the same time, the healing process is better served, I think, by moving quickly to an appointment," Driggs says.
So, then the question becomes, who to choose? Driggs says the council does not have a formal list of candidates it’s choosing from but, "I think it’s pretty clear who the people are who are seriously in contention."
Barnes specifically named the consensus top three outside candidates: former Mecklenburg county commissioner Jennifer Roberts, long-time Mecklenburg state senator Dan Clodfelter, and former city councilman James Mitchell. Mitchell lost to Cannon in last year’s Democratic primary and is currently running in the 12th district congressional primary. All three began reaching out to council members last week.
Then, there’s internal candidates. Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey served as mayor after Anthony Foxx became U.S. transportation secretary last year. She says she would do it again. Councilwoman Vi Lyles, a former assistant city manager, talked like a campaigner.
"I grew up here. I’ve watched it grow to be a city," Lyles says. "I see what we can be about. I believe in us. And that’s why I’m willing to do it."
Councilmen David Howard and Barnes also haven’t ruled out their own runs. The appointment will take place on April 7.
In the meantime, those candidates will try to win support. One would-be mayor, Frank Deaton, approached Ed Driggs immediately after the meeting adjourned.
Frank Deaton chairs the ninth congressional district for the Democratic Party executive committee.
"I’d love to take you to lunch or buy you a cup of coffee and talk about it, and see what you think," Deaton told Driggs.
How To Get Your Name In The Running
The meetings will take place one-on-one or in small groups, according to councilman John Autry.
"It’s going to be a lot of phone conversations. It’s going to be a lot of discussions, 'Hey do you want to meet for breakfast tomorrow?'" Autry says. "We have open-meetings laws. We can’t have a closed session meeting. So it’s going to be a lot of one-on-one discussions and a lot of one-on-one relating of information from one person to the next."
If more than five council members convene, it becomes an official meeting, open to the public, and requiring official notice. There are no more meetings between now and the vote, but Mayor Pro Tem Barnes said the council could still, potentially, take public input.
"There may be some opportunity on Monday before the vote to talk to people," Barnes says. "I know you guys think we always make decisions ahead of time, but that’s not always the case. This stuff is fluid."
The new mayor will replace Patrick Cannon who resigned last week after being charged with bribery, fraud and using his office for financial gain. Cannon was the subject of a three year long FBI sting operation.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes is acting as mayor until the city council appoints Cannon’s successor.
The new mayor will serve until December 2015, the remainder of Cannon’s term.