CHARLOTTE, NC (Steve Harrison/The Charlotte Observer) - Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, in his first public appearance since being released from federal prison on corruption charges, said Saturday he is focused on being the "best father, husband and son he can be" – but didn't rule out running for office again.
"Anything else is God's will," Cannon said.
Cannon, a Democrat, was part of a forum held by the Black Political Caucus for people considering running for public office. For nearly three hours, Cannon and two other former officials gave advice to audience of 100 about fund raising, opposition research and making contacts.
Cannon didn't address his 2014 guilty plea on federal corruption charges, and no one in the audience asked him about his downfall, even in the context of avoiding temptations as an elected official.
Reporters asked him about his charges after the forum, and Cannon demurred. He said since his release from a federal prison in West Virginia in September, he has "only seen love and support."
When asked whether his political advice should be heeded, Cannon said, "What's important is to make sure that anyone vying for office can have an opportunity...to engage with officials. Hopefully this day was something that people could get something out of."
Cannon was charged with public corruption after taking more than $50,000 in bribes, mostly from undercover FBI agents posing as out-of-town real estate developers. The last installment – and the biggest chunk – changed hands in the mayor's Government Center office.
Cannon's probation ends in 2019, when his right to vote – and run for elected office – returns. That's also a city council election year.
Since his house arrest ended in late January the former mayor has been taking baby steps to return to public life.
Since early April, Cannon has hosted a Saturday morning radio show on Old School 105.3. But the forum was his first appearance before a crowd, and he shared the stage with Arthur Griffin and Wilhelmenia Rembert, both former Board of Education members.
Dressed in a black vest and light green tie, Cannon appeared relaxed and was smiling as he recounted his political career. Cannon was greeted warmly by the crowd, and after the forum many people embraced him and took photos with him.
"I would suggest you have to be in this arena to help someone help themselves," he said during his opening remarks at C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church on Statesville Avenue.
Cannon only briefly touched upon the current mayor's race, in which Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and State Sen. Joel Ford are challenging Jennifer Roberts in the Democratic primary. Cannon questioned whether sniping between Roberts and Ford will be beneficial to either side.
At times during the forum, Cannon was guarded, only offering platitudes. In other instances, he spoke freely about what it takes to run for office.