Voters in Charlotte carried Democrats to a landslide victory in Tuesday’s municipal elections, handing Mayor Vi Lyles a third term and electing four Democrats to fill the four at-large seats on Charlotte City Council.
Only one Democrat was defeated in an election that saw just 12% of eligible voters cast a ballot. In District 6, Stephanie Hand fell just shy of unseating Republican incumbent Tariq Bokhari to represent 28 precincts in south Charlotte.
Ed Driggs, the council’s other Republican, ran unopposed in District 7.
When the last vote was counted and the celebration had ended at Heist Brewery, where the Democratic Party held its watch-night party, little had changed in city government — Democrats retained their 9-2 edge on City Council and Mayor Lyles’ popularity with voters was undented. She swept to reelection with 68.4% of the vote.
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City government will include two new faces when winners are sworn in on Sept. 6 — Dante Anderson ran unopposed in District 1, and Marjorie Molina ran unopposed in District 5.
Lyles cruised to an easy victory against her Republican opponent, Stephanie de Sarachaga-Bilbao, a first-generation Mexican American who works in finance.
Lyles, who worked as an assistant city manager before entering politics, has faced scant competition since she was elected the first Black woman to lead Charlotte in 2017.
On Tuesday, she thanked voters for supporting her and said she looked forward to working with the new council. She pledged to continue focusing on affordable housing in Charlotte.
Dimple Ajmera led the tightly packed field of Democrats who swept the four at-large seats on city council. At-large members represent all Charlotte residents, not just those in a particular district.
Here’s how the at-large vote went down:
- Dimple Ajmera — 15.55%
- Braxton Winston II — 16.3%
- LaWana Slack-Mayfield — 15.08%
- James “Smuggie” Mitchell — a 15.06%
Mayfield and Mitchell will each be returning to the council after an absence from city government. Mitchell resigned his at-large seat in January 2021 to take a private-sector job as president of RJ Leeper Construction, a city contractor. He was fired from that job months later and ran again for city council.
Slack-Mayfield was elected four times to represent city council’s District 3 in west Charlotte, first in 2011. She ran for an at-large seat in 2019 but lost in the Democratic primary.
Democrat Malcolm City easily won reelection to represent a swath of Charlotte that includes Historic West End and the Beatties Ford Road corridor. He won 81.9% of the vote against his Republican opponent, Mary Lineberger-Barnett.
Barnett, a political unknown, run as a conservative who would support the police and oppose the the draft of Charlotte’s Unified Development Ordinance, which would allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas currently zoned as single family neighborhoods.
With the race clearly in hand Tuesday evening, Graham brushed aside questions about his opponent, saying he would continue to focus on issues like gun violence, affordable housing and people being priced out of their homes.
No Democrat has ever won Charlotte’s District 6, which represents some of Charlotte’s most affluent neighborhoods. That Republican streak continued Tuesday as incumbent Tariq Bokhari narrowly retained his seat, defeating challenger Stephanie Hand with 50.94% of the vote.
In an election where most races offered little suspense, District 6 was the exception. Bokhari, at times a controversial figure on council, was seen as vulnerable by some Democrats.
After trailing early, he came back to win by 377 votes out of the 19,388 ballots cast in the district.
After Tuesday’s victory, Bokhari was quoted by WFAE as saying it’s becoming harder for Republicans to win in Charlotte due to shifting demographics.
He has frequently clashed with Mayor Lyles and, like other Republicans who ran for city council, he strongly opposed efforts to build more high-density housing and end zoning that effectively protects single-family neighborhoods.
Bokhari said his confrontational style may have hurt him in Tuesday’s election, according to WFAE.