Cover Story: Campaign 2011 - Charlotte Mayor's Race

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The fight for Charlotte Mayor.  It's a battle the Democrats can't afford to lose.  And an election that not many Republicans are trying to win.

We're asking is the GOP already throwing in the towel?

It's four months till the primary.  We're six months out from the general election.  We're about to decide who gets this city's top office.

The incumbent, Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx hasn't made it official yet.  But his candidacy is a given.

And Monday night, local businessman Scott Stone officially threw his hat into the ring on the GOP side of the ticket.

Stone's never held elected office before.  And he's the only Republican running.

Prior to Foxx's election in 2009, Charlotte had a Republican mayor for 22 years.  The GOP would like to win the seat back, but Foxx has a feather in his cap and he's putting away money in the bank.

Some are asking can he be beat?

He's a name and face most Charlotteans wouldn't know.  Scott Stone, 42 years old, an executive with an engineering and architecture firm.

While he's never run for politics before a picture in his office gives him inspiration.  It's of Sue Myrick who in 1987 against long odds managed to upset Charlotte's last Democratic incumbent African-American Mayor Harvey Gantt.

"If you look at what Anthony Foxx has done all he's done is lure the DNC here. The DNC is not the cure for what our challenges are now," says Stone.

He is going where other city Republicans - especially those on Charlotte City Council fear to tread.  All three have thrown their support to Stone.

None is willing to challenge Anthony Foxx, who's been in office less than two years but has been instrumental in bringing the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte in 2012 and has been a vocal supporter of bringing jobs to the city.

"This is the wall..."

If anyone knows about the odds it's Craig Madans.  His office wall lined with the political cartoons of his failed run for mayor.

"To beat an incumbent you need the backing of Fort Knox," said Madans.

The Democrat could not unseat Sue Myrick and twice failed to oust Pat McCrory.  Can Scott Stone beat Anthony Foxx? Madans says, "No.. absolutely not. There is absolutely no way that anybody's gonna beat him.. not on this term. There's just too much at stake."

But Stone believes Foxx is vulnerable.  And he's going to make it all about jobs and the economy.

"I'm running because I'm concerned about the city," he said.  "I'm concerned that we're not competitive.. our unemployment is way too high."

Foxx hasn't officially announced he's running but his campaign's reportedly on track to have about $300,000 by mid-summer.

In 2009, Foxx and Republican John Lassister each raised more than $600,000 in Charlotte's most expensive mayor's race in history.

Larry Shaheen who consults for political candidates says if Stone hopes to mount a serious challenge it's going to take a lot of cash.

"The rule in political campaigning is to beat an incumbent you have to outspend them on a level of about two-to-one. So for Scott to be competitive would have to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 to $1 million to be competitive and get his name out there," said Shaheen.

Scott Stone kicked off his campaign at a rally Monday night at a middle school near Ballantyne.  Anthony Foxx hasn't officially announced yet but is expected to this summer.

Mayor Foxx says he's helped to bring more than 8,400 jobs to the Charlotte area on his watch and he says he's improved relationships between Charlotte, Raleigh and Washington while he's been in office.

Filing for the office is 11 weeks from now.

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