The biggest differences in mayoral candidates comes in the primary
Early voting in Charlotte's primaries begins today. It's widely assumed that the mayor's race will come down to Republican John Lassiter and Democrat Anthony Foxx. But voters will encounter the biggest differences between mayoral candidates in the Republican primary. John Lassiter is a city council at-large member and Martin Davis is the council's ever-outspoken critic. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: Most Monday nights, Martin Davis and John Lassiter sit across from each other at council meetings - Lassiter at the dais with his colleagues and Davis waiting to deliver a three minute rebuke to council. "The fact that you've taken and will continue to take money that doesn't belong to you and give it to elite individuals makes you a tyrant, Mr. Mayor," scolds Davis. "No amount of lame, pathetic posturing can hide that fact and everyone knows it." Davis's reprimands won't change much if Lassiter takes the helm, or for that matter, if Foxx does. Both Foxx and Lassiter support tax breaks to lure companies to the city, both voted for the option to increase the transit tax, and both believe the city has a role in affordable housing. These are areas where Davis says government has no business. Launching his campaign in February, Lassiter delivered his vision for the city. "We must work to keep our taxes low to create an environment advantageous to businesses and job creation," said Lassiter. "We must help provide opportunities to train and re-train workers to fill new jobs. We must build and maintain appropriate infrastructure and a strong public transportation system. We must reduce the crime rate, especially in economically depressed areas in order for businesses to prosper and neighborhoods to be safe." Foxx hit on some of the same areas in his announcement for mayor. Not so much Davis. Davis said he decided to run to dislodge what he calls the uptown elite power structure that preys upon taxpayers. He believes Foxx and Lassiter are part of that power structure. Davis wants to cut taxes, sell the airport and water department, and hire 300 police officers. Lassiter doesn't spend much time arguing with Davis, but he takes issue with being portrayed as an uptown elitist. "I'm a business owner. My business happens to be uptown. I don't consider myself elite," says Lassiter. "I consider myself hardworking. I support a payroll every month and watch our expenses." The conventional wisdom is that Lassiter will cruise to the general election. Davis has raised about $14,000, most of that he's loaned his campaign, while Lassiter has raised about $310,000. Public Policy Polling research shows a race between Lassiter and Foxx is a dead heat. The firm isn't polling the primary because it expects Lassiter will face Foxx in the general election. At debates, Lassiter and Foxx have offered similar ideas about creating jobs, revitalizing parts of Charlotte and reducing crime. Here are snippets from a forum last week: "How we find a way to grow ourselves out of this economic downturn. Find a way to diversify our economy reaching in to rebuild our financial services sector," said Lassiter. "We need to strengthen and diversify our economy. That's very clear," said Foxx. "We are working very hard on trying to make sure we've got a continuation of the light rail line that will run all the way along N. Tryon Street," said Lassiter. "We are actually doing everything we can to get the north rail line done and the northeast line done," said Foxx. Their similar rhetoric frustrates some conservatives like Jeff Taylor with the John Locke Foundation. He also writes the MeckDeck blog. "For the first few months of the campaign you couldn't find a difference," says Taylor. "I mean I called them Flaxxiter. They were basically the same guy. Now we're getting a bit of a distinction." One of the areas of difference is the streetcar line that would stretch across central Charlotte. They both support it, but Foxx was part of the Democratic majority that voted this week to spend $4.5 million on a study to design the project. Lassiter voted against it, saying it makes no sense to pay for a study when there's no money in the budget to begin the line. Both Lassiter and Foxx have a challenge of distinguishing themselves after fourteen years of Mayor Pat McCrory. Lassiter hoped to generate some enthusiasm over the weekend by hosting a breakfast at a cafeteria in West Charlotte. About a dozen people showed up. The people who were there on their own weren't familiar with the candidates. "I know who's not running. The present mayor is not running," said one man.