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Charlotte City Council passes over Dimple Ajmera and picks Braxton Winston for mayor pro tem

City of Charlotte
The Charlotte City Council voted Tuesday to name Braxton Winston as mayor pro tem.

The Charlotte City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to make Braxton Winston the mayor pro tem — bypassing Dimple Ajmera, who beat Winston in the at-large race by 709 votes.

The mayor pro tem is mostly a ceremonial role, with the biggest duty being filling in when the mayor is absent.

Recent tradition says that the candidate with the most votes gets the nod. This year, that was Ajmera, who finished first in the four-person at-large race ahead of Winston, LaWana Slack-Mayfield and James Mitchell.

Leading up to the vote, Ajmera tried to rally women to support her, and she highlighted her story as an immigrant who came to the U.S. as a teenager who didn’t speak English.

But she struggled to get six votes to support her. Some of her colleagues said they didn’t think she was trustworthy.

They kept looking for an alternative, considering Victoria Watlington, Malcolm Graham and Mitchell. Last weekend they settled on Winston.

The furious jockeying for who would become mayor pro tem prompted a warning from City Attorney Patrick Baker. He sent an e-mail to council Democrats on Aug. 29 warning them that if they held private meetings to settle on a mayor pro tem then "you should be aware of the potential negative media/public perception that may occur with such a meeting particularly given the subject matter."

Baker told them that a private meeting wouldn't technically violate the state's open meetings law, since four of the nine Democrats hadn't been sworn in yet. In Charlotte, elected officials are allowed to meet in private so long as there is not a majority of council members, which is six people.

After Winston was nominated Monday night, council member Marjorie Molina made a substitute motion for Ajmera to be mayor pro tem. But Ajmera then bowed out. In her speech, she reminded everyone that — in her view — she deserved the spot.

“As the top vote-getter I have earned the overwhelming support across all demographics and I’m ready to do the work of the mayor pro tem,” she said. “However, there is a time we must realize whether to lead or help someone else lead. And I know we will be in good hands with council member Winston.”

Two new council members were sworn in — Dante Anderson and Molina. And two members who had previously served — Lawana Slack-Mayfield and James Mitchell — also rejoined the council.

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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.