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Last updated January 7th, 2004.
Charlotte is evenly divided between Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal. To wit, Elizabeth Dole carried Mecklenburg County 50-49 against Erskine Bowles. The large black population in the center city and portions of the west and southeast provides the Democrat base, while Republicans are strong in points north and especially south of the center city. West Charlotte is rapidly changing and could quickly swing from leaning Democrat to a battleground. The growing Hispanic and other immigrant populations and the periodic expansion of Charlotte into unorganized portions of Mecklenburg County are major catalysts for the political future of the city.
Republicans in the Charlotte area are making a strong push for minority voters. Besides electing Dan Ramirez, there are now black Republican county commissioners in three surrounding counties.
2004 ElectionThe entire Board of County Commission is up for election in 2004. Pragmatic Republican Commissioner Tom Cox, Chairman of the Board, shocked the political world by announcing his retirement from politics. While the 6 district seats are pretty well gerrymandered, three per party, the 3 at-large seats are very competitive, and Cox's retirement adds a great deal of uncertainty to the mix.
Old time liberal incumbent Parks Helms anchors the Democrat ticket. He will likely be joined by a couple of Democrat retreads, though just maybe a new face will emerge. Possibilities include ex-commissioner Darrel Williams, who narrowly lost a bid to move up from district to at-large in 2002; former school board chairman Arthur Griffin; and I don't know who else. Both Williams and Griffin are black, and historically black Democrats lose when running county-wide: black Democrats will vote for white Democrats (such as Helms), but many white Democrats do not return the favor.
For the Republicans, Vice Chairman Dan Ramirez will be seeking re-election. 5th District commissioner Ruth Samuelson will likely run at-large for the first time. That leaves one more Republican slot, with three announced contenders: Lewis Guignard, Andy Dulin, and Larry Bumgarner. Guignard is a board member of the non-profit government watchdog Citizens for Effective Government; he placed a distant 7th running as a Libertarian in 2002, and has since change his registration to Republican. Dulin is a 44-year-old real estate broker, lifelong county resident and political newcomer from south Charlotte. Bumgarner lost his race for school board in 2003.
If Samuelson runs, either Dulin or Guignard will emerge from the GOP primary to complement Ruth and Dan Ramirez. Guignard starts with better name recognition and a reputation as a respected good government, small government advocate. Dulin may have more establishment support and has a longer history of Republican Party activity. It would take a GOP wave to sweep all three at-large seats, as Parks Helms just keeps hanging in there. But with a strong, unified ticket it's a possibility.
2003 ElectionMayor McCrory easily defeated both ex-city councilor and arena opponent Mike Castano and Ed Mulheren in the primary and cruised to victory over Democrat Craig "Get Mad" Madans in the general election. Mayor Pat is serving an unprecedented 4th consecutive term.
Democrats retained their 7-4 edge on the city council thanks to at-large wins by incumbent Patrick Cannon and former city councilor (she quit) and former school board member (she quit that too) Susan Burgess. Republican incumbent Pat Mumford and longtime school board member John Lassiter won the other two at-large seats. GOP incumbent Lynn Wheeler was tossed aside in the primary like so much . . . tossed aside stuff, thanks to her routine betrayal of conservative principles. Newcomer and McCrory protege Fran Perez came just shy of taking the 4th at-large seat; Perez will likely be back to try again.
The major shift was in the election for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, where Republican Kaye McGarry ran a textbook campaign with strong suburban support and led all vote-getters in the at-large race. Also elected were Democrat "Coach" Joe White and independent Kit Cramer, a Chamber of Commerce somebody. Chairman Wilhelmenia Rembert, a liberal Democrat, was punished for the school board's miserable performance over the last few years by being defeated in her bid for re-election. Also defeated in his at-large bid was George Dunlap, a district school board rep; he will keep his district seat until it comes up in 2005.
Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Ramirez
When Republicans Dan Ramirez and Chairman Tom Cox were elected to represent the county at-large in 2002, Republicans gained control of the county commission 5-4, as the district seats are split and there are only three at-large seats, with former Congressman and incumbent commissioner Parks Helms taking the other at-large seat.
Dan Ramirez, pictured above with President George W. Bush, is a Columbian-born immigrant who has lived in Charlotte for 30 years, raising a family and running a successful engineering firm. In 2002 Ramirez became the first Hispanic elected to political office in Charlotte history on the strength of a strong anti-tax vote and support from local Republican officials, including three current and former Charlotte mayors, and, as you see, President Bush. Ramirez is a possible future candidate for Rep. Sue Myrick's seat in Congress, though he may prefer to stay closer to home to continue running his business.
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory
Mayor McCrory is a Republican whose term is up in 2003. He has not indicated whether he will run again. He is rumored to be considering a run for governor, as there is no clear front-runner as yet. He lives in Republican Rep. Sue Myrick's Congressional district so he would have to wait until she retires to run there, and frankly I'm not sure he'd be the best candidate for the conservative district. McCrory is pictured above with Bill Gates, one of the few people who make McCrory look cool by comparison -- and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
McCrory has been criticized for spinelessness, especially in dealing with the NBA regarding the proposals to build a stadium for an NBA tenant. It should be noted that the city did refuse to build an arena for the detested owners of the Hornets (who really put the 'harlot' in 'Charlotte' and the 'Ho' in 'Hornets') and is building one for a new team instead.
And there was one episode that went a long way to convincing me Pat is for real: the mayors in the Charlotte area form a commission to deal with regional transportation issues. One persistent proposal has been to put light rail along Charlotte's SE corridor. The idea has long been rejected as unsound, but the rest of the commission, with McCrory the lone dissenting vote, agreed to pay for yet another study of the project, one which will never be undertaken. After the vote, cameras caught McCrory looking sullen and dispirited as me muttered into his microphone "This [plan] is a joke." I 'bout lost it when I saw that clip on the news!
Mayor Pro-Tem Patrick Cannon and a host of other Democrats are ready and waiting to run for mayor -- but they don't have the balls to take on a popular incumbent like McCrory.
US Rep. Sue Myrick, R-Charlotte
Sue Myrick is a great congresswoman. She's articulate, conservative, pragmatic, and effective. She's also my US Representative in North Carolina's 9th District and I'm justifiably proud. Rep. Myrick , who sits on the House Rules committee and is the GOP Study Committee Chair, was instrumental in changing rules relating to how sub-committee chairs are selected, which will make it easier to hold down spending appropriations at the committee level and keep the liberals at bay.
Local Political Sites:
Bill James Online
Pearl Burris Floyd
ABC News: The Note
The Washington Times
National Review Online
Charlotte City Council
The city council is controlled by Democrats, by a 7-4 margin. Republicans hold 2 of 4 at-large seats but only 2 of 7 district seats:
At-large, with 2001 vote:
District, with % of total
City councilors are elected in off-years, such as 2003, along with the mayor, and serve 2-year terms.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board
The school board elections are non-partisan, but let's face it folks, the board has a huge amount of say in local spending (& thus taxation) since education spending is such a large part of the county budget, and is as political as the city council and county commission. The school board is controlled by registered Democrats, by a 6-3 margin. At-large members serve two-year terms (they will come up again in 2003) while district members serve 4-year terms. Republicans hold 1 of 3 at-large seats and 2 of 6 district seats:
At-large, with 1999 vote:
District, with % of total
Republicans hold out hope of winning control of the school board by defeating Molly Griffin in south Charlotte and getting two of the three at-large seats. It would of course help if a candidate ran against Ms. Griffin.
Elected Black Republicans
In 2002 three counties in the Charlotte area elected or re-elected black Republicans as county commissioners: Robert Freeman from Cabarrus County, Marvin Norman from Iredell County, and Pearl Burris Floyd from Gaston County.
Robert Freeman was re-elected to the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners in 2002; he served as Chairman before re-election and may do so again. Freeman is 50 years old (I think), has attended at least one pro-life event, and is an ally of conservative Rep. Robin Hayes -- the two are pictured together above. Freeman is in Hayes' congressional district and would be a strong candidate to replace him should Hayes retire soon.
Marvin Norman was elected for the first time in 2002 as county commissioner in heavily Republican Iredell County. Norman is considered a fiscal moderate; he is a 52-year-old grandfather employed by Energy United, "North Carolina's largest electic cooperative".
Pearl Burris Floyd won election to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners in 2002 after previously being appointed to the post. She switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican in 2001 and has been embraced by North Carolina Republicans, including Sen. Jesse Helms. Floyd is 46 years old with strong people skills and a bright political future. While she lives in a safe Republican congressional district, the 9th, currently represented by Sue Myrick, competition for the seat when Myrick retires will be fierce; elsewhere on this page I have already mentioned Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dan Ramirez, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, and now I will mention Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James as possible nominees when Rep. Myrick retire. With the federal picture crowded, Floyd is mentioned as a candidate for state government.
Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners
Republicans won control of the board in 2002 by taking two of the three at-large seats. All commissioners are elected to two-year terms, so they will tango again in 2004.
At-large, with 2002 vote:
4th: 85,592 Darrel Williams (D) -- not elected
District, with % of total
Should Tom Cox and Dan Ramirez choose to run again they will be strong favorites for re-election, as will the district commissioners. Look for Republicans to nominate a strong 3rd candidate in 2004, as 2002 nominee Joy Isenhour was uninspiring at best but still pulled in over 83,000 votes. Parks Helms will likely run again for county commissioner again after passing on the mayoral race, though he's not happy about being in the minority.