Two of the three Republican candidates for Charlotte mayor addressed local party members Tuesday night, disagreeing on a key issue - whether the city has a role in affordable housing.
Kenny Smith and Gary Dunn answered questions separately - Dunn at the beginning and Smith at the end of the forum hosted by the Mecklenburg Evening Women's Republican Club. Smith, who's currently on the city council, started his time by leading the crowd of about 120 in a chant, “Charlotte deserves better.”
“I'm running for mayor, because I believe that Charlotte deserves better,” Smith said.
He talked about his four years on the council, and his conservative politics. And he criticized incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the council for focusing on issues he says don't matter to most Charlotteans - like climate change and bathroom access.
Dunn acknowledged that he's an unknown - even though he's grew up in Charlotte and has run for office multiple times, including twice for governor. He said he wants to do more to help small businesses.
The two men differed when it came to affordable housing. Dunn says it's not government's job to help people live near downtown.
“We shouldn't do anything. They commute because they live in the cheap seats. They live out of town where it's affordable. We have been so successful that there is no affordable housing downtown anymore,” Dunn said.
But that's not how Smith sees it.
“Reality is, Charlotte does have a role in housing. We actually fund it through the Housing Trust [Fund] and we've allocated resources. So let's work from the premise of we have an issue, we're at a deficit of about 34,000 units,” he said.
Smith said the affordable housing problem can be solved through a combination of public and private investments.
He wrapped up his appearance by appealing to the crowd for campaign help.
“I see people that are going to help us narrow the 3,700-vote gap that gave us Jennifer Roberts. And here's what I'll tell you: People say a Republican can't win. That's baloney,” Smith said.
A third GOP mayoral candidate, Kimberley Barnette, was not at the forum, which included city council candidates as well.
Michael Falero contributed to this story.