Ridenhour moves on in District 5 race

Republican will face Paula Harvey for SouthPark-area seat on county commission

by Mike Parks and Morgan Smith

After winning the most votes in the primary election back in May, Matthew Ridenhour again came out on top in this week’s runoff election for the Republican spot on the ticket for county commission District 5. The above map shows which districts in the area Ridenhour and opponent Sarah Cherne took. Map courtesy of Mecklenburg County Board of Elections

Matthew Ridenhour came out on top Tuesday night, July 18, in the Republican runoff for the District 5 seat on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.

Ridenhour will face Democrat Paula Harvey for the SouthPark-area seat, having moved past his challenge from fellow Republican Sarah Cherne in Tuesday’s vote.

“My head is still trying to digest everything,” Ridenhour said Wednesday morning. “Last night was a thrilling victory, but I really can’t claim it as something I did. It’s really my supporters. They really put in a lot of hard work.”

Ridenhour took 53.8 percent of the vote, or 750 more votes than Cherne in the runoff. The two were separated by only 300 votes in the May election, with Ridenhour again coming out on top there.

“I just would like to say thank you (to my voters) for coming out yesterday,” Ridenhour said. “A runoff in the middle of July… it’s just a hard time to get people out to the polls. I’m thankful that people came out to do their civic duty. That’s really how this republic functions.”

With the in-party race now out of the way, Ridenhour is turning his focus toward November and winning the general election.

“I feel very confident against Paula and it’s really because of the team,” he said. “I have a great number of supporters and voters. I believe in my message and I believe we’ll be successful in November. … We’re going to continue what we’ve been doing. We’re going to knock on doors, continue to make phone calls. November is really important for all Republicans – from presidential to District 5 – for the GOP ticket. We’re going to work as hard as we can and as tirelessly as we can to assure we get the ticket.”

Cherne echoed those remarks on Wednesday. Though she won’t represent the party in District 5 in November, she plans on still staying involved.

“I want my voters to know what an honor it was to receive their vote and their support and their encouragement today,” Cherne said. “… I’ve already made contact with the GOP to figure out the best steps to support the three at-large candidates to the county commission and the other Republicans on the November ticket. Any way I can serve, I will continue to do that.”

Republicans have a chance to claim a few more seats on the county commission this November, though may have a tough time just retaining the amount of seats they already have. District 5’s commissioner, Republican Neil Cooksey, is stepping down, and Republican at-large member Jim Pendergraph opted not to run for re-election in hopes of claiming the party’s nomination for Sue Myrick’s District 9 seat in the U.S. House. That spot went to Robert Pittenger on Tuesday night, who will face another county commission member, Jennifer Roberts, in November (See more on that election below). Also leaving the board is commission chairman, Harold Cogdell, and long-time Republican mainstay, Bill James, is facing a challenge from Democrat Connie Green-Johnson in the south Mecklenburg District 6.

The candidates will have to rely on a strong outpour of concern from local voters, especially in regards to the county’s handling of property tax revaluation and funding for local schools, if they want to gain a seat in November. Both Ridenhour and Cherne ran on platforms discussing better ways to handle both issues, as did the three Republican candidates for the at-large spots.

“Ten thousand people came out to vote in a runoff,” Cherne said, “which seems to me to show that people really want to get engaged. … They should take this as a great sign to get involved.”

• In the U.S. House District 9 race, Pittenger took 53 percent of the overall vote to win the party’s spot on the November ballot over Pendergraph, even though Pendergraph won more votes in Mecklenburg County. The district includes parts of Union and Iredell counties.

Pendergraph had 13,120 votes to Pittenger’s 12,384 in Mecklenburg County. Pendergraph took the majority of the districts in the SouthPark area, with Pittenger being favored in the Ballantyne area.

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