CHARLOTTE – Susan B. Harden attributes her Nov. 6 election win over Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour to working hard and crafting an exciting vision for District 5.
Harden and volunteers knocked on thousands of doors across south Charlotte in hopes of meeting and listening to as many people as they could.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” Harden said. “I knew we were running against a very popular incumbent who was well liked.”
Ridenhour defeated Marc Friedland in 2016 by 12,766 votes, Art Cadenas in 2014 by 15,273 votes and Paula Harvey in 2012 by 10,378 votes. Harden defeated Ridenhour by 925 votes, blocking the Republican from his fourth term
Harden, an associate professor at UNCC’s Cato College of Education, expects there to be somewhat of a transition as she enters the public realm of county politics.
Last year, Leadership Charlotte recognized her with the Unsung Hero Award for her work behind the scenes in strengthening service learning opportunities and partnerships between UNCC and the community.
Harden hopes to have strategic meetings with constituents across the district before she is sworn in to continue building relationships. She also wants to meet Ridenhour’s supporters to let them know she wants to be their representative.
Harden envisions priorities centered around education and civic life, economic opportunity and people. As far as education, she’s striving for higher teacher pay, more pre-kindergarten, affordable college and strong, high-quality schools.
One of her top priorities is building stronger relationships with the Charlotte City Council and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. If these groups are not on the same page, governing can be expensive and inefficient, she said.
Prior to beginning her campaign, Harden’s impression of the county commission was it consisted of longtime members.
The new term will usher in four new members – all Democrats. Republicans Bill James and Jim Puckett were defeated, while Democrat Dumont Clarke chose not to run for re-election.
“I’m very excited to see four new members who are going to bring new ideas and approaches to the commission,” she said.
One potential idea Harden noticed during campaigning was how people were waiting two hours to make their picks during early voting. If Harris Teeter can run her quickly through the checkout line, she said, then there’s an opportunity for the county to make the process easier and more convenient.
“We can do better than that,” she said. “People have busy lives and want to come out and express themselves.”
Other election news
Official results won’t be available until after the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections convenes for a canvass meeting on Nov. 16.
Perhaps the biggest shocker of election night was James losing his District 6 county commission seat to challenger Susan Rodriguez McDowell. James has been representing southern Mecklenburg for more than 20 years. McDowell won with 51.76 percent of the vote. Her district includes Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.
Incumbents Pat Cotham, George Dunlap, Trevor Fuller, Ella Scarborough and Vilma Leake will be joined by Harden, McDowell, Mark Jerrell and Elaine Powell.
The election also saw Democrats break Republicans’ supermajority in the N.C. House. Republicans lost three seats in Mecklenburg. Those were held by John Bradford, as well as south Charlotte Republicans Scott Stone and Andy Dulin.
N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley, of Matthews, held off Democratic challenger Rachel Hunt by 52 votes to retain his District 103 seat. If the result holds up, Brawley will be the only Republican to win a House race in Mecklenburg County.
“There are still a large number of absentee and provisional ballots outstanding, and we are committed to ensuring that each of those votes is properly counted,” Hunt said in a statement. “I want to thank all of my supporters for their hard work and dedication, and we look forward to working with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections in the days ahead to guarantee no voter is disenfranchised.”
Mary Belk, Chaz Beasley, Becky Carney, Carla Cunningham and Kelly Alexander were re-elected to House seats, while Christy Clark (D-98), Nasif Majeed (D-99), Carolyn Logan (D-101), Brandon Lofton (D-104) and Wesley Harris (D-105) are among new faces.
Harris captured nearly 52.2 percent of the vote, defeating Stone by 1,498 votes. Harris tweeted gratitude to Stone for his service to the community and his excitement turning campaign issues into victories in the General Assembly.
Lofton earned 51.6 percent of the vote, beating Dulin by 1,351 votes.
In the N.C. Senate, Jeff Jackson, Dan Bishop and Joyce Waddell retained their seats.
Bishop held off Chad Stachowicz to retain his District 39 seat, despite Democrats hitting the Republican incumbent hard for his House Bill 2 legislation, dubbed “the bathroom bill.” Bishop, who had 49,386 votes, won with 53 percent of the vote.
“I want to thank the people of District 39 for electing me to a second term in the State Senate,” Bishop tweeted. “I look forward to continuing to be a strong conservative voice for Mecklenburg County.”
N.C. Sen. Jeff Tarte lost his District 41 seat to Democratic challenger Natasha Marcus. Tarte’s district had included parts of southern Mecklenburg until this election.
Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed will succeed Joel Ford in Senate District 38 after defeating Republican Richard Rivette.
Mecklenburg County voters collectively favored Democrat Dan McCready over Republican Mark Harris in the U.S. House of Representatives race, but support in other counties across District 9 gave Harris the edge to succeed Robert Pittenger.
Harris, who had 138,338 votes, defeated McCready by 1,860. Libertarian Jeff Scott earned 5,042 votes, or 1.8 percent.
McCready received 53.76 percent of the vote (51,188 total) in Mecklenburg.