September 13, 2017
2017 Charlotte Primary Election Report
Results are in from Charlotte’s primary election held Tuesday, September 12, and the city will have a new mayor and a number of new faces on city council next year. Low voter turnout did not prevent a shakeup at city hall as less than 8 percent of registered voters cast ballots in an election that ousted incumbents and likely will add more than a couple millennials and political newcomers to the Charlotte City Council dais. A primary runoff election will be held October 10 and the general election will be held Tuesday, November 7.
In addition to mayor and city council, voters in the general election will decide on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education representatives. The board is non-partisan and has no primary election.
Also on the ballot, voters will consider a $922 school bond referendum that would provide for new and replacement schools, building renovations and other infrastructure improvement needs.
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Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles unseated incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts in the Democratic primary. In what was expected to be a close race, Lyles outperformed Roberts and state Senator Joel Ford to win the party nomination. Lyles jumped out to a roughly 10 point lead early in the returns and held the margin nearly the entire night, gaining 46 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff.
On the Republican side, Kenny Smith breezed through the primary with 88 percent of the vote. Smith will have a financial advantage over Lyles headed into the general election, having spent very little of his war chest during the primary and having $325,000 on hand as of August. Lyles had to spend nearly all of her campaign cash during the primary campaign and is left with approximately $43,000.
Although Democrats outnumber Republicans in Charlotte nearly two-to-one, recent contests for mayor have been competitive. Both sides will need to appeal to the growing number of unaffiliated voters to secure the mayor’s office in November.
Two incumbents and two newcomers won the Democratic primary, filling four at-large spots on the general election ballot. Longtime Councilman James “Smuggie” Mitchell was the top vote getter. Newcomer Braxton Winston, who gained attention as an activist following the Keith Scott shooting, was second among candidates. Julie Eiselt will have an opportunity to campaign for her second term on council. Finally, Dimple Ajmera will round out the Democratic at-large candidates in her first campaign. Ajmera was appointed to the District 5 seat on council following John Autry’s election to the N.C. General Assembly last year. Democrats currently hold all four at-large seats on council. Three Republicans – Parker Cains, John Powell and David Michael Rice – and Libertarian Steven DiFiore are also seeking at-large seats in November.
Larken Egleston is also in the wave of young, new faces that will sit around the dais next year, ousting longtime District 1 representative Patsy Kinsey to claim a seat on council. He does not have a challenger in the general election.
In Al Austin’s former district, four Democratic candidates filed to fill the open seat. Justin Harlow edged out J’Tanya Adams by 13 votes and will face Republican Pete Givens in the general election.
Incumbent Democrat Greg Phipps defended his seat from three challengers and will be serving his third term. He does not face a general election opponent.
In another open seat race, six Democrats filed to represent the 5th District. Darrell Bonapart gained 34 percent of the vote and will face Matt Newton (29%) in a runoff for the district seat. There is no Republican challenger in the general election.
In the only Republican city council primary of the election, Tariq Bokhari won the nomination to fill Kenny Smith’s former seat. He will face Democrat Sam Gunderson and Libertarian Jeff Scott in November.
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The 3rd and 7th Districts did not have primary races. In the 3rd District, incumbent Democrat LaWana Mayfield will face Republican and political newcomer Daniel Herrera. In the south Charlotte 7th District, incumbent Republican Ed Driggs will face Democrat Sharon Roberts.