In a city of nearly 900,000 people, only a few thousand have cast ballots so far in the Charlotte City Council primaries — an election that, for several races, is as important as the general election.
- Only Democrats and unaffiliated voters can vote in this primary. There are no Republican races in the primaries.
Why it matters: Since Democrats perform well in Charlotte, the primaries provide a good indication of what the next city council might look like. Just 17% of registered voters in Charlotte are Republican. 44% are Democrats.
- With just one libertarian candidate, the primaries will narrow the race for four at-large seats to five candidates.
- Plus, the primaries will decide at least two district seats because there aren’t candidates from other parties running.
Zoom in: City council has a significant impact on citizens’ daily lives. They set the city tax rate. Then they have power over how tax dollars are spent.
- Should we prioritize road projects over light rails? How much should we raise the pay of first responders or the city manager?
- How much public money should we contribute toward economic development projects, like a proposed tennis venue at the River District or the Carolina Panthers stadium renovations?
- Should the government dictate development regulations, or should we grant the market more control?
Flashback: Last election, council member Tariq Bokhari recruited a slate of Republican candidates to run for council, but they were unsuccessful. This year, only four of the races for a dozen council seats have Republican candidates.
- Charlotte is one of the few North Carolina cities with partisan elections, meaning parties show up on the ballot.
Of note: This is one of the first elections in North Carolina with the new photo ID law in place. Voters must show either a North Carolina driver’s license or another approved form of identification to vote at the polls. Otherwise, they can fill out an exemption form and vote via provisional ballot.
- Michael Dickerson, director of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections, tells Axios the new law didn’t pose much of an issue during the early voting period.
- There were just four exemption provisional ballots cast as of Friday.
Here are the Democratic primary races:
- Mayor Vi Lyles is running for a fourth term.
- Lucille Puckett is trying again to beat Lyles. She previously ran in the 2022 primaries.
Voters will get to choose four of eight Democratic at-large candidates:
- Dimple Ajmera (incumbent)
- James “Smuggie” Mitchell, (incumbent)
- LaWana Slack-Mayfield (incumbent)
- Victoria Watlington (currently represents a western portion of Charlotte in District 3)
- Ben Copeland
- Charlene Henderson
The four winners of the primaries will run against libertarian candidate Steven DiFiore. He is the only non-Democrat at-large candidate.
Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston is running for North Carolina Commissioner of Labor in 2024 instead of seeking his at-large position again.
District seats with Democratic primaries
- There are no other party candidates, so whoever wins this seat will serve.
- The intrigue: In an unusual move, Mayor Lyles endorsed Russell — essentially attempting to ousts a current fellow council member, Johnson.
- Johnson has served on council since 2019.
- There are no other party candidates so whoever wins this seat will serve.
Of note: Democrat Dante Anderson and Republican Ed Driggs are unopposed in Districts 1 and 7, respectively.
- The most up-in-the-air race is District 6 in south Charlotte. It’s a rematch between Bokhari and Stephanie Hand, who was about 350 votes shy of beating Bokhari last election.