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Three 'blue ballot' candidates win CMS at-large board seats

Liz Monterrey, Monty Witherspoon and Lenora Shipp (l-r) won at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday.
Candidates' websites.
Liz Monterrey (left), Monty Witherspoon and Lenora Shipp won at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday.

The three candidates endorsed by Mecklenburg County’s Democratic Party — incumbent Lenora Shipp, third-time candidate Monty Witherspoon and newcomer Liz Monterrey — claimed the three at-large seats on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday.

The race rounds out a new leadership team that began forming with last year’s district election, which brought five newcomers into the six board seats. That group then hired Superintendent Crystal Hill this summer.

The three rose to the top of a 14-person ballot.

  • Shipp, who won a second term, took the top spot with 14.75% of the votes, in final but unofficial results. When new board members are sworn in next month, she'll be one of only two board members with more than one year’s experience. She chairs the board’s Policy Committee and served on the search team that hired Hill as superintendent.
  • Witherspoon was second with 12.41%. He's a minister with two young children. He ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat in 2019 and for the District 2 seat last year.
  • Monterrey, a first-time candidate, was third with 12.41% as well (she had 38,379 votes to Witherspoon's 38,393). She's the daughter of Cuban immigrants and becomes the first Latina school board member in a district where about 30% of students are Hispanic. She has a child in preschool and came to Charlotte in 2020.

Each voter can select up to three candidates, which tends to make percentages look low. In the last CMS at-large race in 2019, the top three had between 11% and 13% of the total.
The race was nonpartisan, and 11 of the 14 contestants are registered Democrats. Local party Chair Drew Kromer said his group decided to focus its get-out-the-vote efforts on only three in hopes that would push them into the winning positions.

That strategy appears to have worked. Shamaiye Haynes got endorsements from the Black Political Caucus, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators and the Democratic Party's African American Caucus, all of which chose her over Monterrey. But Haynes came in fourth with 10.2%.

Bill Fountain, the only registered Republican on the ballot, was fifth with 8.05%.

The CMS Unity slate — unaffiliated voters Annette Albright (7.91%) and Claire Covington (7.24%) and Democrat Michael Johnson (6.78%) — clustered together in the next three spots. The trio said they decided to run together in hopes of taking all three spots and becoming a force for change. They generated statewide controversy after Democrats in Charlotte and Raleigh speculated that it was backed by Republicans, which the candidates denied.

Results for the other candidates were:

  • Clara Kennedy Witherspoon (not related to Monty Witherspoon), 4.78%.
  • Omar Harris, 3.99%.
  • Brian Kasher, 3.96%.
  • Peggy Capehart, 2.39%.
  • Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel, 2.36%.
  • Juanrique Hall, 2.34%.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.