Ted Budd had a blowout win, and Charlotte City Council's biggest spender was eliminated
Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon will have to wait for another election if he’s to complete a political comeback from serving time in prison on bribery charges. He finished last in the six-person Democratic primary for the four at-large seats on Charlotte City Council, while council member Braxton Winston led a ticket that includes some familiar names heading into the general election, which for City Council is in July.
And as expected, the U.S. Senate race will be a battle between former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.
WFAE's "All Things Considered" host, Gwendolyn Glenn, and political reporter Steve Harrison got together to talk about Tuesday’s primary.
Gwendolyn Glenn: Steve, let’s start with Budd’s victory over former Gov. Pat McCrory. The fact that Budd won wasn’t a surprise — but the margin was, right?
Steve Harrison: It absolutely was. The polls before the election had Budd ahead by maybe 10 percentage points. But the congressman won by 35 points. He won every single county except Mecklenburg — McCrory’s home. And as of this afternoon, McCrory was only ahead here by 60 votes. So after we count all the votes, it may be a 100 out of 100 Budd sweep.
Budd had former President Trump’s endorsement and the conservative Club for Growth had spent more than $8 million in ads that built Budd up and tore McCrory down. So that relatively small lead in the polls just became an avalanche.
Glenn: And you were with the former governor last night in Myers Park. What did he say?
Harrison: He had a very small gathering at Selwyn Pub because everyone in his circle knew this was not going to be their night. And in his speech, he didn’t call for his supporters to vote for Budd in November — at least not yet. He is still hurting from negative ads that called him a RINO — Republican in name only.
Pat McCrory (recording): I have said I would (endorse) in the past, but during the past several days, it’s been said I’m a Republican in name only. And if they really meant it, I have to go through some real evaluation.
Harrison: And I think it’s important to remember just how he has really dominated Charlotte politics for a generation. First elected to City Council in 1989, then mayor in 1995. He held that job for 14 years before serving as governor from 2013 to 2017 and then came within a handful of votes from getting a second term.
Glenn: That does indeed look like the end of an era. So going down the ballot a little to Congress, what did we see there?
Harrison: No surprises in Charlotte. Democrats Jeff Jackson and Alma Adams won their primaries. Pat Harrigan, who was a Green Beret, won the Republican primary. He’ll face Jackson in November in the 14th District, which covers most of Gaston County and half of Mecklenburg. If president Biden’s approval rating stays low, Republicans think that’s a winnable race.
Glenn: And across the state?
Harrison: The biggest story is that Republican Madison Cawthorn lost in the 11th District in the mountains to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, the candidate favored by the Republican establishment like (U.S. Sen.) Thom Tillis. But it was really close: Edwards won by 2.5 percentage points.
And in the two competitive Democratic primaries, voters chose the more moderate candidate: Valerie Foushee in the 4th District in the Triangle and Don Davis in the 1st District in the northeast.
Glenn: OK, let’s shift gears and go way down the ballot to Charlotte City Council. What happened in the race for the four at-large seats?
Steve Harrison: OK, big headlines from the Democratic primary: Braxton Winston finished first — there’s no surprise there. Patrick Cannon — who had served time in prison on corruption charges — finished last.
And Cannon had the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus, which had a pretty good track record yesterday of picking winners.
The other three Democrats to advance were Dimple Ajmera, Lawana Slack-Mayfield and James Mitchell. Mayfield and Mitchell have both been on council before.
They will all be heavily favored against four Republicans this summer.
Glenn: So Cannon lost, as did Larken Egleston, the District 1 council member (who was running for an at-large seat). And Egleston spent the most money by far — what happened?
Steve Harrison: He did raise the most — $137,000.
But Egleston had two strikes against him.
The first: He narrowly missed the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus by a mere two votes. And like I said earlier, the BPC endorsement is considered a big deal, in part because about half of the electorate in a Democratic primary is Black, and because the BPC really works to put people out at the polls to hand out their sample ballots.
Now, to be sure, Ajmera also didn’t get the BPC endorsement, but she was able to win regardless.
And the second factor for Egleston is that last night’s primary was very different than the last City Council primary three years earlier.
Glenn: So, different how? And how did that affect Egleston?
Harrison: The last council primary was in September 2019. And on the same ballot was the redo election for the 9th Congressional District between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris. And that 9th District includes a lot of south Charlotte — an area where Egleston would need to win a lot of voters.
So, in 2022, turnout really fell in Mecklenburg County — in part because there was no 9th District race. It went from 22% in 2019 to 14%locally. And a lot of that drop-off was in south Charlotte, where Egleston needed to rack up votes.
Glenn: OK, quickly: Any other stories from City Council?
Steve Harrison: There are two new members who won because they don’t have any opposition this summer: Dante Anderson in District 1 and Marjorie Molina in District 5.
If the Democrats win the at-large races this summer — as they are favored to do — this council would be the first ever to have a majority of elected members who are women.
Glenn: And the rest of the ballot: Any surprises?
Harrison: Not particularly. Sheriff Garry McFadden and District Attorney Spencer Merriweather were reelected.
And on the Mecklenburg Commission, incumbents Pat Cotham and Leigh Altman won their at-large seats, and they will be joined by Arthur Griffin, a former CMS board member.