The race for the next Mayor of Charlotte will be decided by 11 votes. No the fix is not in for our next election. Only members of the city council will be able to vote for the person who will fill out Patrick Cannon’s term. That vote is expected on Monday.
For our Thursday political conversation we’re going to take a look at some of the likely candidates. Joining Morning Edition host Kevin Kniestedt in studio this morning is WFAE’s Lisa Miller and Tom Bullock. Welcome.
KK: Lisa, let’s start with you. Who has said publicly they want to be Charlotte’s next mayor?
LM: Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts has come right out and said she wants the job. State Senator Dan Clodfelter has basically said, "I’ll take the job if offered." But we’ve heard he’s been lining up city council votes. And a few city council members have said they like the idea of Patrick Cannon’s Democratic opponent James “Smuggie” Mitchell.
KK: So what do we know about Mitchell and Clodfelter?
LM: Clodfelter is a longtime state senator. He wielded a lot of power on the senate’s finance committee when the Democrats were in control of the General Assembly. He’s long been trying to get the state to consider tax reform. Last year, he sponsored a bill that would have decreased individual and corporate income taxes and expanded the number of services subject to the sales tax. It would have been revenue neutral. Several Republicans were supportive of that bill, but eventually lawmakers settled on a plan that Clodfelter did not support.
As for Mitchell, he came to the city council in 1999, but did not run for re-election last year so he could run for Mayor. He’s now running for Mel Watt’s former congressional seat. On council, he represented parts of uptown and northwest Charlotte. He was one of the quieter voices on council. But last year he did have a role in negotiating the deal that gave the Panthers $87 million in city money for stadium improvements in exchange for a promise from the team that it would stay in Charlotte for six years. He's also long stood up for funding the streetcar.
KK: There are some current council members possibly interested in moving offices. Tom, you’ve been looking into this, what have you found?
TB: We found there are a number of council members who are at least some interested somewhat in the job. Here’s Michael Barnes – he’s the mayor pro tem, which means he’s acting mayor until Cannon’s replacement is appointed. Barnes has been on the council for 9 years – either as mayor pro tem or the council member from district four which is the North East part of the city. Now, at one time Barnes and Patrick Cannon co-owned a company, which folded last year. A business association with Cannon may not be viewed in the best light right now. Barnes was a little coy about his desire for the job at a meeting earlier this week – saying he wasn’t interested “at this time."
There’s also Vi Lyles and David Howard – they're two at-large members of the council and they're reported to be interested, although neither has said so publicly. Howard was elected to the council in 2009. He is also Senior Vice President at the Housing Partnership, a group working to get more affordable housing developed in the city.
Vi Lyles is serving her first term but she has a ton of experience with city government. She worked at city hall for nearly three decades and even served as assistant city manager from 1996 to 2004.
And there’s Patsy Kinsey who represents District 1, which is parts of central and east Charlotte. She’s serving her sixth term. And Kinsey, of course, served as mayor in 2013 when Anthony Foxx stepped down to become the US Secretary of Transportation.
KK: What happens if a sitting council member gets the nod?
TB: We’ll have another appointment this time to the council. That person will serve until December of 2015 like the new mayor. But here’s a twist. When Kinsey was appointed mayor she agreed not to run for the office in the next election. With so many council members seemingly interested in the office, it will be interesting to see if the next mayor – who will serve almost an entire term – will agree to not run for the office in 2015. That point may be a bargaining chip for those trying to sway the council’s votes.