Axios 2022 primary election guide for Mecklenburg County voters

Axios 2022 primary election guide for Mecklenburg County voters

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

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Today is your last chance to participate in North Carolina’s primary election, if you didn’t cast your ballot during early voting or vote by mail.

Situational awareness: 42,122 people voted early per the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.Voter turnout increased following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion regarding potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.

  • By comparison, 71,229 people cast their ballots early in March 2020 during Mecklenburg County’s last primary election, which jumped to 500,727 early voters in November’s 2020 general election. Keep in mind that was a presidential election, not a midterm election.

    What’s happening: Campaign season is in full swing and Election Day is today. You must be in line to vote by 7:30pm.

    Of note: Absentee ballots will be counted if they are postmarked by Election Day. They will not be counted if they arrive after 5pm on the Friday following the election. 

    Election Day resources: Use voter search to check if you’re registered. 

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    • To find your polling place and other key info, visit the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections website
    • You can also look up your districts and find your sample ballots by searching your name on the North Carolina Board of Elections website.

    Mark July 26 on your calendar. A second primary would be held if no candidate has the total necessary to become the nominee.

    • Plus, the Charlotte City Council general election, which was pushed back because of census delays, will also be held on this day.

      Why it matters: While high-profile races like the U.S. Senate are garnering the most attention, local leaders make the largest impact on our everyday lives, from setting property tax rates to responding to the pandemic.

      • And since the Democratic party is dominant in Charlotte, some races are essentially decided in the primary.
      • Also, for everyone who has gripes about the way the state legislature is run, this is your time to vote to change it. Below you’ll find maps and links to help you find your districts in the state senate and house races.
      • Oh, and of note: the at-large city council race is easily one of the more interesting local political races in years.

      By the numbers: Mecklenburg County has just under 788,000 registered voters, and of that, 42.5% are registered Democrat, 20.6% are registered Republican and 36.2% are registered unaffiliated.

      • Unaffiliated voters just became the largest group of registered voters in the state.

      State of play: We broke down key races to watch this primary election season.

      • For the most part, this guide only includes races where there are multiple candidates running in a primary.
      • And here’s the important thing: This is a living and breathing guide, which was published in April. We’ll be updating throughout election season.

          U.S. Senate

          The race to fill incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s seat is shaping up to be one of the most-watched in the nation.

          Democrats: Cheri Beasley is the frontrunner here. The former state Supreme Court chief justice reported $3.7 million raised in the first quarter. 

          • Her opponents include James Carr Jr., Robert Colon, Alyssia Rose-Katherine Hammond, Constance (Lov) Johnson, Tobias LaGrone, B. K. Maginnis, Rett Newton (mayor of Beaufort, NC), Marcus Williams, Greg Antoine and Chrelle Booker.

          Republicans: Former Charlotte mayor and governor Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Ted Budd are trading punches at the top. Budd has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and recently McCrory has honed in on Budd’s comments praising Vladimir Putin’s intelligence.

          Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker is also running and blasting Budd on the trail. The campaigns have been exchanging plenty of jabs recently, to the point where the Budd team has started calling the McCrory campaign and the Walker campaign “McWalker.”

          • Meanwhile, veteran Marjorie Eastman has raised significant money.
          • Other candidates include: David Flaherty, Benjamin Griffiths, Kenneth Harper, Jr, Charles Kenneth Moss, Lichia Sibhatu, Jen Banwart, Lee Brian, Leonard Bryant and Drew Bulecza.

          U.S. House of Representatives

          Congressional map

          Mecklenburg’s Congressional Districts. Courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections

          Legal challenges over redistricting have reshaped how Charlotte-area residents are represented in Congress. But we do know now that at least for 2022, Mecklenburg will be divided into two districts: the 12th and the 14th.

          • The border between the revised 12th and new 14th cuts across Mecklenburg County like a sash diagonally from southeast Charlotte to northwest.

          12th district (north Mecklenburg + Cabarrus)

          The district leans heavily Democrat, with 64% of the votes in its precincts going to Joe Biden in 2020.

          Democrats: Rep. Alma Adams is running for reelection here in a district that now covers the northern portion of Mecklenburg County and some of Cabarrus County.

          Republicans: Andrew Huffman, former Salisbury city council candidate Nalini Joseph and real estate investor Tyler Lee.

          14th district (south Mecklenburg + Gaston)

          Also a Democrat-leaning district — 57% of the voters in its precincts favored Biden in 2020.

          Democrats: State Sen. Jeff Jackson, who dropped out of the U.S. Senate race late last year, is the front-runner here. He launched his campaign with some $800,000 in his campaign coffers leftover from the Senate run.

          • His opponent is Ram Mammadov, an immigrant from Azerbaijan whose grandmother fled Ukraine during World War II.

          Republicans: Business owner Jonathan Simpson, who says his party’s been plagued by “divisive rhetoric, immature leadership and an indelible political class;” and Pat Harrigan, a combat veteran and Hickory resident who owns a firearms manufacturing company.


          State Senate

          Mecklenburg County has six state senate districts (see printable map, and interactive map for street-level detail). Just one has multiple candidates in a primary.

          District 42 (southeast Charlotte)

          Republicans: Cardiologist Cheryl Russo and former state House member Scott Stone.

          • Whoever wins will face Democrat Rachel Hunt, a current state House representative.

          N.C. House of Representatives

          N.C. House of Representatives Maps for Mecklenburg 2022

          N.C. House maps for Mecklenburg in 2022. See interactive map for street-level detail.

          Mecklenburg has 13 N.C. House districts within its borders. A few have primary contests.

          Of note: We’re also watching the race for District 73, a redrawn swing district in Cabarrus County.

          District 103

          This south Charlotte/Matthews seat is being vacated by Rachel Hunt, who’s running for the state senate seat above.

          District 107

          Covers north Charlotte around I-77.

          District 112

          Crowded Democratic primary for voters in Mint Hill and parts of east Charlotte.


          Charlotte Mayor 

          Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is running for her third term and faces three opponents in the Democratic primary. She will also be up against one of two Republican candidates in the general election. 


          Charlotte City Council 

          With several council members not running for reelection, including mayor pro tem Julie Eiselt, there will be at least a few new faces on council next term. But many of those new faces could be old familiar faces, too.

          The shifts: District 5 is open because representative Matt Newton is running for district court judge.

          At-large

          This is one of the most interesting races of the year, from campaign finance reports to how much the real estate industry donates to their campaigns. All of the Democratic candidates are current or former council members, and one is a former mayor who spent time in jail on corruption charges.

          city council redistricting

          Charlotte City Council districts. Courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. Check your precinct location, or view a detailed map of all precincts.

          District 1: The district covers parts of Uptown, and neighborhoods just to the North, East and South, including Plaza Midwood, Dilworth, Druid Hills and NoDa.

          District 2: Incumbent Malcolm Graham faces challengers Kendrick Cunningham, an activist, and Seversville neighborhood advocate Amar Johnson in the Democratic primary for the district covering much of west Charlotte.

          District 3: Incumbent Victoria Watlington has one primary opponent, Tiawana Deling Brown, who founded a nonprofit for formerly incarcerated women. The district includes southwest Charlotte.

          District 4: Incumbent Renee Perkins Johnson faces nonprofit founder Cedric Dean, and Darlene Heater, former head of University City Partners, in the Democratic primary for this northern Charlotte district.

          District 5: Five Democrats are vying for Newton’s seat in east Charlotte: Curtis Hayes Jr., an activist who went viral during the George Floyd protests, realtor Liz Millsaps Haigler, Marjorie Molina (a member of the city’s Equitable Development Commission), Mama’s Caribbean Grill owner Vinroy Reid and Mark Vincent.

          District 6: Three Democrats are trying to unseat incumbent Republican Tariq Bokhari in southeast Charlotte: United Methodist clergy person Stephanie Hand, finance executive Rob Hillman and Nancy Wiggins, president of a commercial real estate brokerage.

          District 7: Incumbent Republican Ed Driggs will represent the Ballantyne area for another term. He faces no primary or general election opponents.

          You can view an interactive map of City Council district boundaries here.


          Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners

          A blue wave swept the County Commission in 2018, leaving all nine seats held by Democrats. The question in November’s general election will be whether Republicans can win any of them back.

          At-large: There will be at least one new at-large member on the commission, as Ella Scarborough, who is on medical leave, is not running for reelection.

          Two district seats on the commission have primary contests.

          • In District 2, incumbent Vilma Leake is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Angela Edwards, who also ran against Leake in 2018.
          • In District 6, incumbent Susan Rodriguez-McDowell has no opponents in the Democratic primary but there are two Republicans facing off: Jeremy Brasch, who previously ran for an at-large seat, and Desiree Zapata Miller, past president of the Mecklenburg Republican Women’s Club.
          Mecklenburg county commission districts

          County Commission districts. Courtesy of Mecklenburg County Board of Elections


          Sheriff

          Incumbent sheriff Gary McFadden faces two Democratic challengers: Aujiena (Gina) Hicks and Marquis Robinson. There are no Republicans in the race.

          • McFadden, a former homicide detective and reality TV star,  became sheriff in 2018. Less than a year after being sworn in, he made national headlines as “The Sheriff Who’s Defying ICE.”
          • Hicks, who was fired by McFadden in 2019, is the first Black woman to run for sheriff. She condemned conditions in local jails under McFadden for both officers and those incarcerated.
          • Robinson retired in January after more than two decades in law enforcement.

          Of note: Last month, the candidates participated in the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum, which gave Mecklenburg County residents a chance to hear from them and to ask them questions.


          District Attorney

          Incumbent Spencer Merriweather faces Democratic opponent and former public defender Tim Emry

          • Merriweather became Mecklenburg County’s first Black district attorney in November 2017, replacing Republican Andrew Murray, whom former president Donald Trump tapped for U.S. Attorney. Gov. Roy Cooper nominated Merriweather in 2017. Merriweather was later elected in 2018.
          • Emry and Merriweather participated in the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum last month, which you can watch here, and a Black Political Caucus debate, which you can watch here.
          • Of note: The Black Political Caucus will host a debate between the two candidates on Tuesday, April 5.

          Judges

          Superior Court

          Democratic candidates Roy H. Wiggins and David H. Strickland are competing for N.C. Superior Court Judge 26D.

          • Wiggins has practiced law for over 25 years, serving as an assistant district attorney and in private practice in criminal and civil courts. He’s currently a district court judge in Mecklenburg County, and was appointed by Gov. Cooper in 2018 and was reelected in 2020.
          • Strickland served as a district court judge for the 26th district from 2013-2020, focusing on family court.

          District Court

          Several Democratic candidates are running for N.C. District Court Judge in District 26:

          Seat 18: Cecila Oseguera faces Keith S. Smith.

          • Oseguera boasts being a bilingual Spanish speaker as one of her qualifications. She has two decades of experience include assistant federal public defender, Legal Aid attorney and private practice. 
          • Smith’s three decades of legal experience began as a probation parole officer. He’s also served as an assistant district attorney in Rowan County and a senior associate attorney with Mecklenburg County’s department of social services.

          Seat 19: Assistant public defender Belal Elrahal is running against Mecklenburg County magistrate Samantha C. Mobley.

          • Elrahal is a Charlotte native (Harding University High School alumnus) and the son of Lebanese immigrants. 
          • In addition to private practice as an attorney, he’s also a Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps attorney; simply put, a military lawyer.
          • Mobley’s experience extends beyond law. She spent seven years with Bank of America and three years with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 

          Seat 01: Mecklenburg County magistrate Christopher Bazzle faces Shante’ Burke-Hayer, who practices family law.

          Republicans April C. Wood, Curtis “Trey” Allen and Victoria E. Prince are competing for N.C. Supreme Court Seat 05.

          • Wood’s experience as a judge began in 2002, when she was elected to the District 22B District Court. She was elected to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2020. 
          • Allen is a former Marine who was appointed General Counsel for the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts last year. 

          N.C. Court of Appeals

          The focus remains on Republican candidates here:

          Wilson-based Beth Freshwater Smith, who focuses on juvenile justice, faces Donna Stroud, the current Chief Judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, in District 09.

          Michael J. Stading is running against Charlton L. Allen in District 11.

          • Standing served as a prosecutor in Mecklenburg County. He’s also been a District Court judge, and he currently serves as a JAG officer in the Air Force.

          District Court Districts. Courtesy of the North Carolina Judicial Branch


          What’s next:

          Sept. 9: Absentee ballots mailed out for the general election. 

          Oct. 20-Nov. 5: Early voting for the general election.

          Nov. 8: Election Day. You can vote from 6:30am – 7:30pm at your designated polling place.


          Editor’s note: This article has been updated to show that Greg Phipps is serving on city council at-large now, not as the District 4 representative, and Roy H. Wiggins is a current district court judge. A clarification was also made about absentee ballots. Since publication, Rodney Moore (who was indicted in a campaign finance probe in 2019) has dropped out of the District 112 race. 

          • This article first ran on April 4, 2022, and was updated on May 16, 2022. 

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