It might have taken three votes, but Republican Matthew Ridenhour is finally the undisputed winner of the SouthPark-area District 5 seat on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.
Ridenhour took 56.45 percent of the vote against Democrat Paula Harvey in the general election, after first coming out on top in the May primary election against four other Republicans and then beating Sarah Cherne in the July run-off election.
Ridenhour won 45,126 of the 79,945 ballots cast in District 5, winning 39 precincts to Harvey’s 12.
Ridenhour could not be reached for comment following the election, but spoke in October with South Charlotte Weekly about his goals as a potential commissioner.
“I think our county’s problems require a creative mind – someone who can think outside the box,” Ridenhour said in October. “My military background, a lot of time was spent working with people from different backgrounds. County commission seems pretty divided over the past several years so we need someone who can get along with other folks and help move the county forward at the same time.”
Speaking in regard to the 2011 property tax revaluation, Ridenhour said, “People saw their property tax go up and I think that’s indicative of what the county spends. Are we spending money wisely and are we spending efficiently?
“… When people see their tax rate go up, they feel like they’re not getting any relief and are moving out of the county … actively looking to move to Union or York counties and that’s unacceptable. That’s not good for our community, our local businesses.”
Ridenhour will take over the seat of Republican Neil Cooksey, who died last month after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Cooksey opted not to run for re-election earlier this year, leading to five Republican candidates throwing their hat in the ring. Now, Ridenhour will join forces with south Mecklenburg’s Bill James and north Mecklenburg’s Karen Bentley as the only Republicans on the board after Democrats swept the three At-Large seats on Tuesday night.
Harvey was hoping to add to the overwhelming Democrat majority on the county board by switching District 5 from the red to the blue column. She won her party’s primary race in May, beating Lisa Rudisill with 54.17 percent of the vote and taking 43 of the district’s 51 precincts. But she wasn’t able to keep the momentum rolling in the general election.
“I feel good with (the results) and this is just one battle that wasn’t won,” Harvey said of her first attempt at politics. “I’ve met so many wonderful people and so many have said ‘Don’t give up.’ And people are talking to me about other positions for the future.”
Those future positions could include a run at Charlotte City Council, where she could challenge Republican Councilman Andy Dulin, or lining up another try for county commission.
“I’m a business person, I want to do something that has financial decision-making because that’s what I’m talented at,” she said. “For me (the important thing) is doing things to make sure we’re using our money wisely. I believe in ethics and doing the right thing and I feel like those skills are something we need in government. There is always city council next year and county commission again in two years.”
Ridenhour will be sworn in during a special ceremony on Dec. 3.