Cover Story: Charlotte Mayor's race heats up

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two different takes on a political ad mailed out in the eleventh hour in the Charlotte mayor's race.  Have the fangs come out, or this just fair political play?

The ad is from the NC Democratic Party and arrived in mailboxes Thursday.

It's a grainy photo of Republican mayoral candidate John Lassiter - that claims he's in bed with big money developers, letting them run all over everything, while leaving homeowners out to dry.

We talked to both sides -- Lassiter is upset, while Democrat candidate Anthony Foxx says it wasn't his campaign that sent it out.

Just a week ago editorial writers and others were marveling over how nice it was that Charlotte's mayor's race hadn't gotten down in the muck.  Now, there are accusations that is has gotten ugly.

"But they had to give it to a minority."

The famous hands ad that symbolized the Jesse Helms - Harvey Gantt US Senate race from 20 years ago.. it's not.

But is the first volley in what's been a genteel mayor's race.

And upset Republican John Lassiter enough to call a noon-time news conference at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

"You have grainy images," he says, "you have no mention of who the opponent is other than trying to attack me."

The postcard ad sent out to tens of thousands of Democrats and unaffiliated voters in Charlotte claims that Lassiter's developer donors get the royal treatment.  And implies that he's against the average family.

In the fine print it states that it's paid for by the the North Carolina Democratic Party.. not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.

But Lassiter doubts that opponent Democrat Anthony Foxx didn't know it was coming.

"We have controlled every single message out of our campaign.. carefully made sure that came with my name on it and my reputation in it is consistent with values I have," says Lassiter.

"This is something that came out of the sky as far as I'm concerned."  Anthony Foxx told us that when it comes to outside groups.. outside his campaign.. what they do he can't control.

He has made an issue in debates-- Lassiter accepting tens of thousands of dollars from developers.. a group that often supports Republican candidates.

Both candidates TV ads have been positive and have been about their record.

So when Lassiter challenged Foxx today to disavow the state Democratic Party's interference in the mayor's race.. Foxx politely declined.

"There's no need to call for there being restoration of civil campaign.. because I feel like I've been doing that," he says.

It's the first time in memory either state political party has gotten involved in a Charlotte mayor's race.

Republican Pat McCrory has held onto the seat for 14 years.. it's been in GOP hands for 22.. Democrats see this as their best shot.

In defending the ad-- Kerra Bolton with the NC Democratic Party says, "The facts are the facts. We believe the voters have the right to know all of the facts about the candidates. Is it negative to talk about someone's record and what they've done?"

But did they cross the line?  Like beauty-- that's quite possibly in the eye of the beholder.

The ad says Lassiter has taken money from developers, why is he upset?

He's not denying he's received contributions from them, he says the ad the state Democratic party put out there distorts his record.. and reflects negatively on his character.

Lassiter says the state party has spent nearly $50,000 to influence the Charlotte mayor's race.