2019 Charlotte Local Election Report
Unofficial results are in from the Charlotte Mecklenburg local elections and there are three main takeaways:
- Mayor Vi Lyles (D) handily secured a second term as Mayor of Charlotte.
- Democrats retained a 9-2 majority on Charlotte City Council.
- Mecklenburg County voters opposed raising the sales tax rate.
Although Charlotte City Council will look similar to last term as the mayor and at-large incumbents all defended their seats, the council will have a few new faces around the dais next term. Three open seats were secured by Democrats in Districts 2, 3 and 4 yesterday. Four of the district races – 1, 3, 5, and 7 – were unofficially decided in the primary as candidates did not face general election challengers.
Perhaps the most newsworthy outcome was how strongly Mecklenburg County voters opposed raising the sales tax. The 2019 referendum, which would have supported arts, education, and parks, failed with 57 percent voting “against.” As a result, the sales tax rate in Mecklenburg County will remain at 7.25 percent.
Mecklenburg voters also chose three at-large school board members, but the final outcome could come down to a recount.
Charlotte City Council
Mayor Vi Lyles secured a second term after easily outpacing Republican challenger David Michael Rice with 71 percent of the vote. She becomes the first Charlotte mayor to be re-elected since Anthony Foxx in 2011.
All four Democratic incumbents retained their seats after defeating a lone Republican challenger. Julie Eiselt will return for a third term and was the top vote-getter (24%). If tradition holds, she will remain the Mayor Pro Tem next term. Braxton Winston (22%) will return for a second term, James Mitchell (22%) for a 10th term (third at-large), and Dimple Ajmera (20%) will serve her second elected term on council.
Former city councilman and state legislator Malcolm Graham (D) defeated Republican Jacob Richardson with 85 percent of the vote to secure the open seat and return to the dais.
Victoria Watlington (D) was the only political newcomer to not face a general election challenger. She unofficially secured the open, heavily Democratic District 3 seat with her primary election win.
Political newcomer Renee Perkins Johnson (D) defeated Republican Brian Pierce with 80 percent of the vote to secure the open seat and her first term on council.
First-term incumbent Tariq Bokhari (R) defended his seat against Dr. Gina Navarrete (D) with 59 percent of the vote and will return for a second term (The R&D in the QC podcast he hosts with District 1 representative Larken Egleston [D] will likely continue for a second term as well).
2020-2021 Charlotte City Council
Vi Lyles (D)*
Julie Eiselt (D)*
Braxton Winston (D)*
James Mitchell (D)*
Dimple Ajmera (D)*
Larken Egleston (D)*
Malcolm Graham (D)
Victoria Watlington (D)
Renee Perkins Johnson (D)
Matt Newton (D)*
Tariq Bokhari (R)*
Ed Driggs (R)*
The new Charlotte City Council is scheduled to be sworn into office December 2, 2019, and Mayor Lyles will likely announce committee selections shortly thereafter.
Mecklenburg Sales Tax Referendum
The quarter-cent sales tax referendum was opposed by Mecklenburg County voters yesterday, with 57 percent voting “against.”
The proposed tax rate increase would have generated an estimated $50 million annually. Revenue was to be allocated primarily to the Arts and Science Council, as well as county parks and greenways, teachers, and suburban towns’ arts and parks projects.
Since the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners voted in July to add a sales tax referendum to the ballot, the region has seen passionate debate on both sides of the issue. Alliances cut across political, economic, and social spectrums, creating unlikely ally and adversary groups. Proponents urged voters to support arts organizations and programs, county priorities like teacher pay and greenspace, and access to programs provided by those priorities. Opponents were concerned with impact of tax increases on the poor and other priorities not accounted for in the proposal, such as affordable housing and transit.
North Carolina law played a factor in the local sales tax issue as well. Under state law, Mecklenburg County is authorized to increase the sales tax rate by an additional one-quarter percent, subject to approval by the voters in an advisory referendum. State law also requires specific language be used on the ballot. Many supporters of the referendum commented that the required ballot language was vague and prevented a clear explanation of the proposal.
A similar effort to raise the sales tax the maximum allowable limit in 2014 also failed. This likely won’t be the last effort to increase the sales tax, but when and for what reason remains unclear.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education
Mecklenburg County voters also decided on three Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education At-Large representatives. Only one incumbent ran for re-election as board chair Mary McCray and Ericka Ellis-Stewart announced earlier this year they would not seek another term.
Out of a crowded field of thirteen candidates, incumbent Elyse Dashew was the top vote-getter. Jennifer De La Jara, a former educator, was also elected.
For the third seat, Lenora Shipp, a former CMS principal, narrowly edged out Stephanie Sneed, an advocate for west Charlotte schools, by 187 votes, according to unofficial returns. State law allows candidates to request a recount if the outcome is less than 1 percent difference.
- Voters delivered a strong message on the sales-tax increase: No. (Charlotte Agenda)
- Election results: Tax hike for arts and parks rejected, mayor cruises to easy victory and more (Charlotte Business Journal)
- Voters reject Mecklenburg sales-tax increase for second time in 5 years (Charlotte Observer)
- Mayor Vi Lyles wins a second term; council incumbents re-elected (Charlotte Observer)
- Regional Election Roundup: Incumbent Mayors Reign; Voters OK Cable System Sale (WFAE)