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Mecklenburg County Election Guide 2023

The unmissable municipals

Charlotte city skyline from an aerial view
(Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Municipal election season is here once again. In-person early voting for this year’s local primary elections for Charlotte City Council and mayor begin on Aug. 24, ending on Sept. 9, with a second primary scheduled for Oct. 10 if needed. General Election Day for Charlotte City Council, mayor and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7.

There are only 10 early voting sites across Mecklenburg County this year, less than half the amount available during last year’s state and federal elections.

As the mayoral election is citywide and only at-large reps on the school board are up for election this year, the only district races in the city this year are for city council. For a look at where your district is, as well as voting location and other info, check out the NC State Board of Election’s Voter Search tool. Note that if you vote early, you can vote at any of the 10 sites spread across Mecklenburg County this year.

Important Note: Voters in North Carolina will be asked to show identification in order to vote this year. A simple driver’s license will do if you have one, but if you don’t, you can get a No Fee ID card from the DMV or get a free photo ID from the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections (Meck BOE) by calling 704-336-2133, emailing Vote@MeckNC.gov, or visiting the Charlotte office at 741 Kenilworth Ave., Suite 202.

In Mecklenburg County, student or staff ID from Davidson College, Johnson C. Smith University, KIPP Academy Charlotte, KIPP Change Academy, Lake Norman Charter, Queens University, UNC Charlotte will suffice. This includes older ID cards without expiration dates.

Any voter with a reasonable impediment to showing photo ID (lack of transportation, lost or stolen ID, disability or illness, family responsibilities, etc.) are considered permitted exceptions to the photo ID requirement and will be allowed to vote.

For more info on the new voter ID requirements, check out this fact sheet from Meck BOE.


COUNTY

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education (3 SEATS AVAILABLE)

Annette Albright
A former CMS employee who sued the district after being attacked by students in 2016, Albright has called for more safety in schools as the education chair for the local NAACP chapter. She called on CMS to improve its handling of reported rapes and sexual assaults in school this year.

CMS Board of Ed candidate Annette Albright
Annette Albright

Peggy A. Capehart
Capehart is an NC A&T grad and former educator from Fairfax, Virginia, who now has grandchildren in CMS.

Claire Covington
Covington is an attorney and mother of two young girls in CMS who serves as a room parent and PTSO board member of her daughters’ public school. She says she wants to ensure “that every child receives an exceptional education regardless of socio-economic status, race, ability, sex, or gender” while making “effective changes to the $2.2-billion industry known as the CMS School Board.”

Bill Fountain
This former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and marketing professional pulls from recent conservative talking points, saying he wants to “invigorate the student-parent-teacher relationship to include parental rights and values” and “create an environment that values classical education, the child development process, and age-appropriate learning materials.”

Juanrique Hall
Hall is a longtime football coach at West Charlotte High School who has in recent years been working closely with young people along the Beatties Ford Road corridor on violence prevention, joining the city’s first Alternatives to Violence program in the area in December 2021. More recently, he’s been closely affiliated with conservative parents group Moms for Liberty.

A tall young man stands in front of a dorm building with his arms around Juan Hall and Leondra Garrett, all smiling for the picture
Juan Hall (left) and Leondra Garret (right) with Omarion, who went through the Alternatives to Violence program and is now attending Livingstone College. (Photo courtesy of Leondra Garrett)

Omar Harris
Having recently moved to Charlotte from Virginia, Harris is a National Guard veteran who would like to be a voice for teachers.

Shamaiye Haynes
Haynes says she saw firsthand how the disparities and the achievement gaps are stifling to communities of low social economic status after enrolling two of her children in Title I schools in west Charlotte. She started The Charlotte Community Think Tank “to examine solutions to the complex issues and uplift the community’s voice. “

Rev. Michael Johnson Jr.
One third of the “CMS Unity Slate” along with Annette Albright and Claire Covington, Johnson is an accomplished musician who pivoted to the business world. According to Johnson’s website, “He strongly supports early investment in children’s education, recognizing that a solid educational foundation is a critical component to ensuring a better quality of life for future generations.”

Brian Kasher
“I am public school educated and a life-long supporter of public education, public school staff, and fully funding the education of our children,” Kasher writes on his website. “I believe in our community, our children, and the CMS staff. My concern as a CMS parent and taxpayer is the School Board and executive leadership.” He advocates for improving safety in schools by updating the district’s bond package.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel
A candidate for mayor in 2022, during the pandemic McDaniel started a weekly YouTube broadcast called EVOLVE Weekly and began a 52-week series titled How To Implement A More Perfect Union, in which she spreads awareness about the legislative process and the roles of legislators.

Liz Monterrey
A first-time candidate and daughter of Cuban immigrants, Monterrey drew the endorsement of outgoing at-large member Jennifer De La Jara. Her platform involves putting students first by driving opportunities for them and building a strong sense of communidad.

Lenora Shipp
With Board Chair Elyse Dashew and De La Jara stepping down, Shipp is the only incumbent running for reelection in this year’s CMS Board race. The West Charlotte grad once worked as a teacher at First Ward Elementary School before becoming principal at Sedgefield Elementary, where her results in closing the achievement gap led to a position as a strategic principal at various other schools.

Clara Kennedy Witherspoon
Inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Witherspoon builds much of her platform around the idea of “viewing the child as a whole person.” She has worked 40 years in human service roles including as a social worker for Head Start early childhood education program, director of a general psychiatric management mental health agency, and a CMS licensed school counselor.

Rev. Dr. Monty Witherspoon
The stated mission of Witherspoon’s campaign is that he “will work to ensure that all students who graduate are college or career ready, have a quality education and a safe learning environment regardless of their ZIP code.” His focuses are on student achievement, safe learning environments, support for teachers, strong community coalitions, and system-wide accountability and transparency.

Rev. Monty Witherspoon

CITY

Charlotte Mayor

Vi Lyles (D)
As mayor of Charlotte since 2017, mayor pro tem for two years before then, and an at-large city council rep for two years before that, you know what Lyles is about if you’ve been even passively engaged with local politics over the last decade.

Lucille Puckett (D)
Puckett founded Take Back Our H.O.O.D.S. after her 26-year-old son was shot and killed in front of her in her front yard in 2016. She has been a strident anti-violence activist in the city since. Her platform focused on public safety, housing and helping the city’s youth.

Mayoral candidate Lucille Puckett
Lucille Puckett at a protest in 2020. (Photo by Lee Flythe)

Rob Yates (I)
Libertarian Yates says that in his 14 years in Charlotte, he’s “watched this city succumb to the worst perils of government mismanagement.” His platform focuses on affordable housing, transportation and public safety.

Misun Kim (R)
Kim’s platform includes fighting crime and homelessness, bringing tech jobs to the city, and “reestablishing American values in Charlotte,” which apparently means “disallowing any censorship in the area,” banning the federal government from “taking away” the 2nd Amendment, and working a bunch of COVID grievances regarding mask and vaccine mandates into city policy.


Charlotte City Council At-Large (4 Seats Available)

Dimple Ajmera (D)
Currently seeking a fourth term on Charlotte City Council, Ajmera represented District 5 in east Charlotte before gaining the at-large seat she currently fills. Her focuses are on public safety, sustainability, affordable housing and economic opportunity.

Incumbent Charlotte city council rep Dimple Ajmera
Dimple Ajmera

Ben Copeland (D)
Newcomer Copeland says his mission is “to foster a thriving community that prioritizes affordable housing, enhances infrastructure, modernizes the city, and attracts investment.” Having graduated from the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) at Myers Park High School in 2021, he’s currently enrolled at UNC Charlotte.

Charlene Henderson El (D)
Longtime Hidden Valley community leader Henderson El lost last year’s District 1 primary by just over 1,000 votes after her neighborhood was drawn out of District 4, where she had wanted to run. This year, she runs at-large on a platform of jobs, housing and public safety.

James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell, Jr. (D)
In January, a state investigation into a potential conflict of interest involving “Smuggie” found that he had broken no state law in his roles on city council and as a claimed part-owner of R.J. Leeper Construction LLC, a development firm with which the city does business. He rejoined council in 2022 after some years away, and is currently focused on economic development, affordable housing and public safety.

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D)
Like Mitchell, Mayfield returned to council in 2022 after a three-year hiatus. “Our city has changed, the needs of our residents continue to change yet challenges such as housing affordability, transportation, small business growth, taxes & jobs with livable wages have remained,” she says.

LaWana Mayfield smiles while addressing media, who are moslty standing out of frame with microphones directed at her in frame, standing in front of a backdrop with the city of Charlotte logo.
LaWana Mayfield attends the current council’s swearing-in ceremony in September 2022. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Victoria Watlington (D)
Having served as the District 3 rep since 2019, Watlington is attempting to move into a city-wide position this year. “I’ve used my engineering, operations, and community service experience to challenge the status quo, craft new solutions, and champion the needs of residents in District 3 and across the city, including drafting the framework for Safe Charlotte and our city’s Corridors of Opportunity plans,” she says.

Steven J. DiFiore II (I)
Having earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the UNC Charlotte in 2009, DiFiore’s professional experience includes working as a lighting controls specialist as well as in retail, security, customer service, and information technology. He has served as the recording secretary for the Libertarian Party of Mecklenburg County’s Executive Committee


Charlotte City Council District 2

Malcolm Graham (D)
Graham served as District 4 rep on Charlotte City Council from 1999-2005 before moving on to the N.C. Senate, where he represented Mecklenburg County for 10 years. In 2019, four years after tragically losing his sister in the Emanuel AME church shooting in Charleston, he returned to city council as a representative of District 2, home of his beloved Johnson C. Smith University.

Gary Linn Young II (D)
A North Carolina A&T State University grad, founder of a sports agency with the NBA, and chairman and president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce, Young has also served on the board for the McCrorey YMCA, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, Charlotte Community Relations Committee, Charlotte Business INClusion Advisory Committee, and others.


Charlotte City Council District 3

Tiawana Brown (D)
Born and raised in Charlotte, Brown launched Beauty After the Bars after serving four years in federal prison on fraud charges. Through her organization, she helps women who are returning home from incarceration. In April, Brown celebrated the grand opening of her organization’s first Sisterhood Alliance for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) Home in Mint Hill and will soon open more. She’s running to improve public transportation and traffic infrastructure as well as increase workforce development opportunities and public safety.

Beauty After the Bars founder Tiawana Brown and Mrs. Bee hold hands while smiling for the camera, standing in front of the Queen City Podcast Network logo
Tiawana Brown (right), founder of Beauty After the Bars, with Mrs. Bee, a resident at Brown’s newly opened SAFE Home in Mint Hill. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Melinda Lilly (D)
Throughout her near-decade with the Alliance for Climate Education, Lilly developed and participated in dozens of youth leadership training sessions, digital climate campaigns, and civic engagement projects. She has served as Chair of the LGBTQ+ Democrats of Mecklenburg County and Chair of Charlotte’s Precinct 230. She’s running on a platform of community, accessibility and integrity.

Warren F. Turner (D)
Educated in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Turner has lived in the Steele Creek area for more than 50 years. His platform is built on sustainable solutions with lasting impact in the areas of smart growth, transportation, public safety, housing affordability for elderly and young adults, and youth violence. In 2010, while Turner was serving as the District 3 rep on council, he faced allegations from at least six women who claimed he had made sexually inappropriate comments to them dating back to the 1980s.

James Harrison Bowers (R)
A conservative Christian, Bowers has a photo of himself posing with Mark Robinson on the front of his website if you’re curious as to what he’s all about.


Charlotte City Council District 4

Renee Johnson (D)
Having served on the council since 2019 following 30 years of public service, Johnson says she has unfinished business. “Your right to live in a city that promotes equity for all, economic growth and smart land planning, which is exempt from special interests, is what I will continue to do when re-elected,” she says.

Wil Russell (D)
As a construction manager based in Charlotte for 20 years, Russell believes he understands the importance of providing families a safe, affordable place to live. Russell’s platform prioritizes an improved transit system, a safer and more affordable community and supporting small, local businesses — enough to have drawn a rare endorsement from Mayor Lyles.

Wil Russell

Olivia Scott (D)
Scott is a former University of North Carolina Charlotte student and current social media advisor with the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds. She previously ran for representative on the CMS Board of Education for District 3 but was defeated in 2017.


Charlotte City Council District 5

Curtis M. Hayes, Jr. (D)
Hayes went viral in early 2020 for his emotional conversation about generational trauma following the death of George Floyd. “We must bring a calm respectful dialogue to find meaningful solutions for the people of Charlotte, let’s cut the drama & cut the privilege,” he says.

Marjorie Molina (D)
Incumbent Molina has dedicated her first, shortened term to finalizing a plan for the entire Eastland Yards site. Following her election in 2022, she explained to Queen City Nerve how spending nearly 20 years living in Charlotte, more than half of which in east Charlotte, led her to engage in community work and eventually decide to run for office.

Vinroy Reid (D)
Born in Kingsvale, Jamaica, Reid is known as the owner of Mama’s Caribbean, but he’s also a founding member of the African Caribbean Political Action Committee, serves on the Charlotte Business Inclusion Advisory Committee, and represents Mecklenburg County on the North Carolina State Executive Committee. According to his website, he values education and economic opportunity for business owners, entrepreneurs and grad students and supports living wages for seniors, veterans and working families.


Charlotte City Council District 6

Stephanie Hand (D)
A former executive operations manager and general manager in the airport industry, Hand lost her race with current District 6 rep Tariq Bokhari by a mere 357 votes. Now she’s back to finish the job.

Tariq Bokhari (R)
A three-term rep in District 6 and two-time honoree in Queen City Nerve’s Hall of Shame, Bokhari’s top priorities are economic development for local business owners, improved transit and better public safety through increased funding for the CMPD.


Visit the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections candidate listing to see who filed for municipal elections in Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.


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One Comment

  1. Good morning,
    Thank you for your coverage of the election Primary 2023. Your list of colleges and/schools that are approved to use their IDs as valid voting identification is incomplete. Johnson C. Smith University was also approved, along with a few others. Can you publish a correction to this important piece of information?

    Thanks so much!

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