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Mayoral Candidates Debate Future Of Charlotte

Tom Bullock
Mayoral Candidates Dan Clodfelter (far left), Scott Stone, Edwin Peacock, Michael Barnes and Jennifer Roberts stand on stage before the two debates began.

A conference hall at Queens University was filled Thursday night with spectators. They gathered to hear the top six candidates for Charlotte’s next mayor debate the future of the city.

There were two debates Thursday night organized by the Charlotte Observer and WBTV. And like the primaries in just under two weeks time, they were broken down by party.


Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE News
Republicans Scott Stone (left) and Edwin Peacock (right)

Scott Stone and Edwin Peacock, the two Republicans vying for mayor took the stage first. WBTV’s Steve Crump was the moderator and he began with this, "How do you convince a Democrat heavy electorate that they should vote for you?"

"I don’t believe it’s going to be impossible for a Republican to win," answered Scott Stone, "We’ve just got to do a good job of getting our message out, convincing voters that our ideas are right and I believe voters will make that choice." Edwin Peacock, his opponent, agreed. "People select person over party as it relates to our mayor and that’s been proven over time."

Peacock has served on the city council and in 2013 lost a close race for mayor to Patrick Cannon. Stone has never served in public office and is running as a business leader and political outsider. They differed slightly when asked if Officer Randall Kerrick, who shot Jonathan Ferrell, should be reinstated by the CMPD now that the criminal charges he faced have been dropped. "I think it’s going to be hard for him to come back and serve after these last few months," said Stone, "but if we don’t reinstate him then I think he’s got a great lawsuit on his hands." "I’d like to see Officer Kerrick come back to the CMPD," said Peacock, "I think he’s a fine individual and obviously if he and his family decide he wants to come back I hope Chief Putney would support him 100 percent in coming back." CMPD internal affairs are still investigating the shooting.

Both men are ardent opponents of Charlotte’s streetcar. But that’s where things got heated. Throughout the campaign Stone has brought up the fact that while Peacock was on the city council, he voted for a budget that included funding the streetcar. Peacock addressed that charge last night. "This candidate is trying to misrepresent my record, and I think it’s important Scott, if you want to be mayor you’ve got to understand the budgeting process and how it works." Peacock did vote for that overall budget, but only after trying to get the streetcar removed from it.

After 45 minutes, the Republicans joined the crowd, the stage was reset and four other candidates took a seat. It was time for the Democrats.


Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE News
Michael Barnes (left), Dan Clodfelter, David Howard and Jennifer Roberts.

Whereas the Republicans featured an outsider against a seasoned politician the Democrats, Michael Barnes, Dan Clodfelter, David Howard and Jennifer Roberts, all have a long history of public office. They were more cordial and spent the majority of their time debating what to do about social issues. Take this question about the recent moves by some large cities to pay employees $15 an hour, what’s been dubbed by some as a living wage. "Give us a number on what the hourly living wage should be for full time city employees," moderator Steve Crump asked. Instead of a number, Mayor Dan Clodfelter offered this test, "If we have any employees who have to go on Medicaid or food stamps than we are not paying a living wage." Jennifer Roberts was the only candidate who openly supported the idea. "I think that we should lead by example. And we have to be smart in budgeting and maybe phase it in. But I would support raising the minimum wage to $15."

On the issue of a lack of diversity in CMS schools Michael Barnes would advocate for "a cap on poverty in schools," meaning a limited percentage of students at any one school could be on free or reduced lunch. Students above that cap would be sent to other schools.

Earlier this year, the city council voted against adding LGBT rights to a non-discrimination ordinance. Councilman David Howard said he would again support the measure. "You can actually use any restroom you want to right now, it’s not illegal to do that." A key issue in that vote was allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice. Howard says he'd offer the council an alternative plan. "What I propose is that we go to something that’s more like Europe. Single stall options so it doesn’t matter who you are and what you are, if you have to use the restroom you can do it." After Howard spoke, Clodfelter added this, "I don’t think I’ve ever in my life seen anyone standing in the door of a restroom checking people’s anatomy to make sure they’re going in the proper restroom. I think it’s a bogus issue."

The primary for both Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor and other municipal offices is on September 15. Early voting begins September 3.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.