Elections are over, and Charlotte City Council will change, yet stay the same.
Despite a number of new faces on the dais when new members are sworn in on Dec. 2, council will remain split at 9-2, with Democratic candidates retaining current Democratic seats and two new Republicans taking the two south Charlotte districts held by outgoing Republicans Warren Cooksey and Andy Dulin.
Charlotte will have a Ballantyne mayor, as local resident and current council Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon beat out former councilman Edwin Peacock with 53 percent of the vote, according to unofficial vote totals. Results will be made final next week. More than 17.5 percent of registered voters took part in this year’s election.
Kenny Smith, councilman-elect for District 6 who ran unopposed in the race, raked in 14,983 of the 15,238 votes. Ed Driggs, councilman-elect for District 7, brought in 11,304 of the 15,718 votes, leaving Democrat Bakari Burton behind at 4,405 votes.
Smith has lived in District 6 for more than 30 years. He says his knowledge about the district and passion for the community has helped prepare him for the job, and his experience as a commercial real estate broker will help him make more informed decisions on zoning and planning issues. With the help of Dulin, he’s hoping to dive headfirst into the seat in December and has already started getting his feet wet.
“At a localized level, I’ve already received emails from constituents about issues they need help with and have forwarded those concerns on to city staff,” Smith said.
Driggs has a history, background and knowledge in economics and finance. He’s excited to get the ball rolling and hopes to immediately address the fairness issue, as many District 7 complaints center around what they see as an unequal distribution of city taxes. He hopes to identify some of the main needs of District 7 to ensure they’ll be made a spending priority.
And with the help of Smith, Driggs hopes to work on the city’s relationship with leaders in Raleigh, which was tarnished in large part by the airport authority situation with Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
“I think it’s important that we get back on good terms,” Driggs said. “As one of the two Republicans on city council, I think Kenny and I will be essential in mending those relationships.”
Smith and Driggs will join Mayor Patsy Kinsey, who will return to her District 1 seat in December after being appointed by current council to finish out the rest of former Mayor Anthony Foxx’s term; incumbents LaWana Mayfield, District 3, and John Autry, District 5; Alvin Austin, District 2, who replaces James Mitchell who lost the bid for mayor against Cannon in the primary election; and Greg Phipps, District 4. Current District 4 councilman Michael Barnes will move into one of four at-large seats, alongside Vi Alexander Lyles and incumbents Claire Green Fallon and David Howard.
Many of the at-large candidates are in agreement with Driggs about resolving the airport situation and moving forward.
“The most important thing is the airport. We have got to get that sorted out. It’s just hanging over everyone’s head and it’s just so important,” Green Fallon said. “And I think it’s important for everyone at the airport – for them to know where they are going.”
Other issues likely to go before the new council will be addressing homelessness and future locations of subsidized housing, infrastructure and roads, as well as maintaining the tax rate.
For some at-large councilmembers, like David Howard, becoming more of a voice for all of Charlotte is important. As an at-large candidate, in the past he’s often been looked over as residents go directly to district representatives.
“I want to be out in the community some more,” he said. “At-large members sometimes don’t get out in the community as much. I would love for voters to engage me more.”
While the Democratic candidates swept the mayoral and at-large races, it wasn’t with much help from south Charlotte voters, which voter registration numbers show lean heavily Republican. Republicans outweigh Democrats in registrations by 3,455 in the SouthPark area, and by 11,465 registrations in the Ballantyne area, according to Mecklenburg County Board of Elections statistics.
Peacock won every precinct south of Uptown between Park and Providence Roads, including Cannon’s home precincts in Ballantyne, by a wide margin. But he only won three other precincts – one in east Charlotte and two in the Mountain Island Lake area – in losing by roughly 6,000 votes.
Likewise, Ken Harris, who trailed the final at-large seat by more than 5,400 votes, was the top vote-getter in every south Charlotte precinct. His fellow Republicans often beat out the four Democratic candidates in each of those precincts, but trailed across the rest of the city. The other Republicans, Vanessa Faura (33,864 votes), Dennis Peterson (33,042) and Mark Frietch (32,667), and Libertarian Eric Cable (7,579) were all at least 13,000 votes short of the closest Democratic candidate (Green Fallon, 47,161). Frietch won one precinct, at Mountain Island Lake, but the rest went blue.
Smith, who locked up the District 6 seat with his Republican primary victory earlier this year, saw 255 write-in votes against him, while Driggs, who won his primary to face Burton, won every District 7 precinct.
Find more information on elections results, as well as see how your precinct voted, at the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website, www.meckboe.org. Elections results will be finalized by Tuesday, Nov. 12.