Following the September 12 primaries, we now know that Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts will not lead the Queen City after the 2017 municipal elections in November. Roberts was defeated in Democratic mayoral primary by current at large city-council member Vi Lyles. Lyles won by nearly 10 points — which in total votes cast was a difference of 3,393 votes. Lyles has a strikingly similar voting record with Jennifer Roberts during her service as a member of the Charlotte City Council and seems to have won her primary election by campaigning on the fact that she was not the unpopular incumbent. Jennifer Roberts has made a national name for herself with her fuss about HB2 better known as the Bathroom Bill. Charlotte lost out on hundreds of millions of dollars on a controversy that was viewed by many of our neighbors in Mecklenburg as avoidable. Roberts was also criticized by both Republicans and Democrats over her leadership — or lack thereof — during the incidents that took place after the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte last September.
On the Republican side, incumbent city-council member and commercial real-estate broker, Kenny Smith, did not run for re-election to the city council seat in district six which he currently holds to pursue the mayor’s office. With no formidable primary opponents, Smith easily secured the Republican candidacy for mayor with 88 percent of the votes casts in the primary — a difference of 7,366 votes between him and second place Gary M. Dunn who marshalled only 555 votes. Smith’s campaign message consisted of three main tenants: making Charlotte safer, more travel friendly, and boosting economic mobility. The plan for making the city safer includes better support for law enforcement, improving infrastructure, and making the city easier to get around. Introducing better jobs will help stimulate the economy by securing higher wages as well as adding more people to the work force.
There are two clear paths and visions for voters to choose from in the upcoming election which is now nearly just six weeks away. One path is identical to the path Charlotte has travelled under Jennifer Roberts. With Vi Lyles, Jennifer Roberts 2.0, there will be no significant change in the priorities or capabilities of Charlotte’s leadership. Under Kenny Smith, the economic impact of having a pro-business mayor could have a tremendous impact for Charlotte along with surrounding counties such as Stanly, and even for the entire state of North Carolina.
One-third of Stanly County citizens work outside of Stanly County with many of those commuting to the Charlotte area. With such a large number of citizens from this area working in Charlotte this election dramatically impacts them and this area.
This mayor’s race is unlike others, because of the profound impact it has beyond Charlotte. Charlotte is the 17th largest city in the United States. With the vast amount of media attention that has been drawn to Charlotte over the past year the city is in desperate need of a strong leader that will stand up for what is right and fight to better the city of Charlotte and recognize the leadership position the city has on the region and the entire state of North Carolina. The future of the city of Charlotte lies in the hands of the voters and they have two options that are clear. Voters can choose more of the same, or a new path that could reignite the economic engine that Charlotte can be for our region. While those of us in the areas surrounding Charlotte do not have a vote in the mayoral race, the results of the contest will be felt in households and businesses throughout Stanly County and the Uwharrie region.