Charlotte city council race may change political landscape

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Tuesday November 5, thousands will head to the polls to pick Charlotte's next mayor and his new city council.

The Charlotte City Council race is a packed one with many newcomers. Twenty-one people are running for 11 seats and with fights over the streetcar, and Bank of America Stadium, there could be a change in the political make-up of council.

"City Council races are usually off people's radars," said UNCC Political Scientist Dr. Eric Heberlig.

Heberlig has studied Charlotte City Council races for over 10 years and says important issues facing the current council should put the race on people's radars. He says the debate over using taxpayer money to fund Bank of America stadium and pay for a streetcar should resonate with voters.

"When voters don't know the candidates they typically go by party identification," he said.

Heberlig says having an "R" or a "D" next to a candidate's name makes a difference at the polls. Four Democrats, four Republicans and one Libertarian are running to fill four at-large council seats. The two incumbents in the at-large race are Democrats.

"The incumbents are highly likely to win. They have the name recognition they have the campaign contributions to win," he said.

The Democratic majority on council was in favor of using taxpayer money to renovate Bank of America Stadium and the streetcar. He says voters may vote to maintain the status-quo because of Charlotte's political makeup.

"More people in Charlotte call themselves Democrats than Republicans and Independents so Republicans need to get people to vote against their natural inclinations to vote Democratic," he said.

In the individual district race, 12 candidates are running to fill 7 council seats. Heberlig says if Republicans want to pick up more seats in districts or at-large, they have to continue using both the Bank of America Stadium and the streetcar fight to their advantage.

"Their only hope to gain representation is to hold on to those seats and pick up the at large seats," he said.

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