'Dark money' having a role in Charlotte mayoral race

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Democrat Vi Lyles and Republican Kenny Smith, both candidates in Charlotte's mayoral race, have purchased TV ads, but they're not the only ones spending cash with local media.

The so-called dark money from political action committees is showing up in Charlotte's mayoral race.

An attack ad was directed at Democrat Vi Lyles and was funded by the North Carolina Values Coalition.

"I think local races for large cities like Charlotte are drawing the attention of national groups that are seeing the fundamentals of money becoming a core component of today's campaign," Dr. Michael Bitzer, political science professor at Catawba College said.

Former City Council Member Michael Barnes who ran for mayor two years ago understands money when it comes to attracting voters in a campaign. He says he is not a fan.

"As our society becomes more and more divided, there will be people throwing money at whatever candidate, whatever issue they want because you have the dark money causing that sort of damage, it reduces the number of people participating," Barnes told WBTV.

Even local elections officials like Michael Dickerson who heads up the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections can't always follow the dollar.

Dickerson said, "In North Carolina, it's all through the Secretary of State's office that handles where that money comes from and to report that information and that money."

Meanwhile, Bitzer is concerned with the expected turnout to be less than 20 percent.

Bitzer says, "Eighty percent of the electorate is not going to have a say or a vote cast in this election. That's a pretty troubling statistic for those of us who even study these kinds of things."

Political analyst feel before the election is over, candidates seeking the office of mayor will have raised and spent more than one million dollars.

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