Growth And Roads Key Issues In Suburban Charlotte Elections

Nov 2, 2017

Updated Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, 11:24 a.m.
This election season, political reporter Tom Bullock has been busy covering the race for Charlotte mayor and council through his Candidate ME podcast. This week, there’s more of that - he goes outside the city. Tom spoke to WFAE’s David Boraks about races for mayor and town board surrounding Charlotte. David says that concerns over growth are a consistent theme.

BORAKS: Balancing development with growing pains like roads and transportation is a challenge that all these local officials face.

In the north Meck towns - Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson – the NCDOT's project to add toll lanes on I-77 is controversial - to say the least.  Some candidates - particularly in Cornelius - have jumped into politics after leading the fight against the toll lanes.  

In some towns, there's an undercurrent of unhappiness with existing elected leaders - because of issues like growth and transportation.  So in places like Matthews and Davidson, candidates talk about preserving downtowns and limiting growth.

BULLOCK: Well, let's talk about some of the mayoral races for these towns. We have a few key retirements.

Right, Tom. So Cornelius, Concord, and Matthews votes will all pick new mayors Tuesday(November 7).

Scott Padgett has been the mayor of Concord since 2001 and before that he served a decade on the city council and other city boards. He announced his retirement this summer.  So there's five people now competing to replace him.

  • There's longtime council member Alfred Brown Jr. He's the of former mayor
  • Liz Poole, a former Cabarrus County school board member
  • Bill Dusch, a tech entrepreneur who has served on local government boards and commissions
  • and a couple of political newcomers - Anthony Weiss and Willie Clay.

And in Cornelius, Mayor Chuck Travis decided not to seek re-election after two terms. You may remember that he was criticized by town commissioners last year for supporting the toll lanes on I-77. His successor will be current commissioner and Cornelius native Woody Washam, who is running unopposed.  

BULLOCK:  And of course there's Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor, who isn't running again - what's going on there?

Jim Taylor is stepping down after eight years as mayor and a decade on the town board. So, it's a two-way race to replace him - between current town commissioner Larry Whitely and Paul Bailey, a former town commissioner who's now on the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board.

Whitely is a former state trooper and a church pastor. When he was elected to the board two years ago, he became the first African-American ever to serve as a Matthews commissioner.

Taylor has chosen sides in the race, he endorsed Paul Bailey. But with growth, there are some people in town unhappy with Town Hall. Whitely could pick up some support from anti-establishment voters.

BULLOCK: And let's look at the mayor's race in Davidson. Longtime Mayor John Woods is facing a couple of challengers this year. And what are the key issues in that race?

That's right, Woods has been mayor since 2007 and served as a town board member before that. He's presided over the town through a time of difficult finances - due to the recession, and the town's purchase of the money-losing local cable system. But the economy is improving now and growth is returning. And that's causing friction.  

Woods's challengers are Laurie Venzon, a former town board member who pushed to professionalize town budgeting.  And Rusty Knox, a local musician and real estate agent. Knox has the endorsement of Save Davidson. That's a group formed this year to oppose several new commercial and residential developments in town.   

The three agree that growth is inevitable in Davidson. But they have different takes on the subject.

BULLOCK: And you brought up again the group Save Davidson. This has been a controversial group in this election. Explain why.

The group was started by residents who objected to the town's plans to develop a wooded piece of property near their homes. Since then, Save Davidson has fought against other new developments. This fall they've been working to elect candidates for mayor and town board who share their views.

The group's Facebook debates over the issues have sometimes gotten uncivil … and there's a little bit of a backlash among some residents.  In late October - somebody filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections. That anonymous complaint alleged that Save Davidson violated election laws by failing to register as a PAC - a political action committee.

BULLOCK: Now before we leave Davidson, the voters there will have a few bonds on the ballot.

BORAKS: Yeah, it's the first time anybody can remember - it may be the first time ever - the town has had bond issues on the ballot.

There are three issues: streets and sidewalks, greenways and parks and recreation. It's about $15 million total. The town board has approved putting this on the ballot. A couple of the candidates, Rusty Knox and Laurie Venzon, have expressed reservations about it. We'll see what the voters do.

BULLOCK: Alright, so let's walk through the other mayoral races in Mecklenburg County.

BORAKS: Well, as we mentioned, we have several candidates unopposed.  Mayor Ted Biggers of Mint Hill and Mayor John Anerella of Huntersville will be re-elected - since they have no challengers.

In Pineville, incumbent Jack Edwards actually has a race on his hands this time. Two years ago he was unopposed. But this year, he's facing two challengers:

One is current town commissioner David Phillips. The other is Amelia Stinson-Wesley, a Methodist pastor and former rep on the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board.

BULLOCK:  And there's been a lot of interest in town boards. Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and Matthews all have 10 or more candidates for town commissioners. So let's just stop for a second and talk about those town boards.

BORAKS: Yeah, it's made for some pretty lively races around the towns. And it's made a lot of work for voters as well.

I will say that there seems to be more interest in local races this fall, which is a good thing, given the number of candidates. I mean just look at how many candidate forums there've been in some towns. In north Mecklenburg, where I live, we typically see a few forums for local races. This time around there have been a half-dozen or more in some of these towns.  

BULLOCK: Alright, WFAE's David Boraks, thanks.

BORAKS: You're welcome, Tom.

RELATED LINK

You can listen to the full Candidate Me podcast here.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Concord Mayor Scott  Padgett's service before becoming mayor. He served a decade on the city council and other city boards, not just on the council.