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Democratic Mayoral Candidates Debate Before Primary

Charlotte’s mayoral primaries are a little less than a week away. Four Democrats and two Republicans will vie on the ballot to replace former mayor Anthony Foxx. Today, the Democratic candidates met for a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters. WFAE’s Ben Bradford attended the debate, and he joined All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey for an overview of those candidates.

RUMSEY: Ben, give us a quick rundown of who the candidates are in this election?

BRADFORD: James Mitchell and Patrick Cannon are both long-time city council members. They’re widely viewed as the frontrunners in the Democratic race, because of their name recognition and fundraising. The other Democrats on the ballot are Gary Dunn, who describes himself as a UNC Charlotte student and businessman. He’s has also made a couple token runs for governor. And Lucille Puckett, who used to serve on the Charlotte Housing Authority Board.

In the Republican primary, former city councilman Edwin Peacock is the guy. He’s raised the most money of any candidate—about $196,000 at last filing. David Michael Rice is also running, but isn’t viewed as a contender.

RUMSEY: You attended a debate between the Democrats today at the public television station WTVI. Can you give us a sense of what they’re running on?

BRADFORD: Mitchell and Cannon are trying to differentiate themselves from each other, which is difficult considering they’re both on the city council, they’re both Democrats, and even at the debate there wasn’t much daylight between their views. Mitchell has tried to position himself as carrying on Mayor Foxx’s policies.  At the debate, Mitchell argued that he could get a council that’s often had in-fighting to work together.

MITCHELL: We need a mayor that can be a catalyst, a collaborator, a consensus builder, but will fight for the critical assets that belong to our great city.

BRADFORD: At the same time, Mitchell has sent out a series of mailers attacking Cannon, mostly for voting against Foxx’s streetcar proposal. That proposal would have raised property taxes to pay for a streetcar. Cannon later voted for a different version that relies on getting federal money. Cannon’s arguing that’s an example of his practicality.

CANNON: I think we need someone, in fact I know we need someone, with a level of commonsense, a level of business sense, and a level of community sense. Those are the things which I have represented in years past, those are the things I will represent in the future as your mayor.

BRADFORD: The other two candidates, Puckett and Dunn, are positioning themselves as outsiders. Dunn said Duke Energy and the banks should pay more taxes. I think he also read a poem, right before saying that.

DUNN: Dear God, please make me like my dog thinks I am. A black hole and a supernova sound exactly alike. One is a brilliant burst, the other is a sucking hole.

BRADFORD: Puckett didn’t talk much about specific proposals, but said she offers a fresh viewpoint with no political ties.

RUMSEY: You mentioned the streetcar and the city applying for a federal grant. We found out yesterday that the grant request was denied. Did the candidates discuss that?

BRADFORD: They did. Both Mitchell and Cannon defended the streetcar. Here’s Mitchell:

MITCHELL: We did the light rail on South Boulevard, people questioned there was it the right public investment. Citizens of charlotte if we make the right public investment we would get economic development, job creation, we would change two major corridors, the East side and the West side.

BRADFORD: And Cannon said losing one grant wasn’t the end.

CANNON: There is a potential opportunity to look at additional funding that could come from other grants on the federal level. So I think we continue to chase after those TIGER grants and ensure that we can land those.

BRADFORD: So that could be an indication of what the city council is moving toward.

RUMSEY: Well, we’ll keep watching. Ben, thanks for joining us.