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The articles from Inside Politics With Steve Harrison appear first in his weekly newsletter, which takes a deeper look at local politics, including the latest news on the Charlotte City Council, what's happening with Mecklenburg County's Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina General Assembly and much more.

Some CMS Board Members Will Likely Have A Year Added To Terms. Why?

Erin Keever

The Charlotte City Council and mayor are likely to get four or five months added to their two-year terms because of U.S. Census Bureau delays in reporting data.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board? Some will likely get an extra year to their four-year terms.

Why the disparity?

The Census Bureau was supposed to release detailed population counts in the spring. But due to the pandemic, that data is delayed until September. That means Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the city can’t draw new districts that are equal in population in time for their fall elections. The North Carolina General Assembly appears set to approve a bill that would require local governments with districts to push their elections to 2022. The House passed it 107-0 Wednesday.

Under the bill, Charlotte would hold its primaries March 8, 2022. The general election would either be in April or May, depending on if there’s a run-off election for Congress or Senate.

While the city elections would happen relatively quickly, the bill specifically calls on CMS to hold its election in November 2022.

Five-year terms for some CMS Board members.
Five-year terms for some CMS Board members.

Mecklenburg County elections director Michael Dickerson said CMS could, in theory, hold its delayed election in March 2022, when there are party primaries for United States Senate, Congress and Mecklenburg County Commission – or even April 2022 or May 2022.

But under the bill, that won’t happen.

Charles Jeter, the government relations coordinator for CMS, said the district did not have a preference whether the election was held in the spring of 2022 or the fall of 2022.

“We just needed the election moved to 2022,” he said. “It didn’t matter to us when.”

The next election for the CMS Board, pictured, may be in November 2022, instead of the spring of 2022.
The next election for the CMS Board, pictured, may be in November 2022, instead of the spring of 2022.

Jeter speculated that some worried that holding it alongside the March primary might have created a voting pool that would have favored one party over another. But he said with competitive Democratic and Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate race, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

CMS has staggered elections. This year, the six district seats currently held by Carol Sawyer, Thelma Byers-Bailey, Rhonda Cheek, Margaret Marshall, Ruby Jones and Sean Strain are up for reelection.

If the election were held in November 2021 as planned, two issues would likely play a large role.

One is the fight over Mecklenburg County’s decision to withhold $56 million from the school district until it sees a detailed plan to close the achievement gap. The other is the board’s reluctance to open schools for in-person learning during the pandemic.

With the election likely set for November 2022, those issues may have faded away.

“That will be past,” Democratic political consultant Dan McCorkle said. “It will go back to issues like crowded schools in the south and low-performing schools elsewhere.”

Impact On City Elections

For most City Council races, the primary is the entire election, since Republicans have little to no chance to win at-large seats and most district races.

The big contest in the primary will be for City Council at-large between Democrats.

And those at-large candidates will be judged by a much larger electorate – many of whom don’t follow local politics. Candidates will have to spend more money. Name recognition will play a much larger role.

And the spring calendar gives new life to the council’s two remaining Republicans, Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs. They will be favored to win their primaries in March, and then face a Democrat in April or May in the general election.

If they had been required to run in November 2022, they might have been overwhelmed by new Democratic-leaning voters coming out for the U.S. Senate race.

It’s now more likely council will keep its current 9-2 split between Democrats and Republicans.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.