Democrats sweep county’s 3 at-large seats

Democrats strengthened their hold on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners in this year’s general election, holding onto seats they already had and adding more through the three open at-large seats.

Pat Cotham, Trevor Fuller and Kim Michele Ratliff, all Democrats, took the three seats on Tuesday night, beating out three Republicans and a Libertarian candidate to ensure the county commission stays in Democrat hands for the near future. All three current at-large commissioners opted not to run for county office this year, with both Democrat Jennifer Roberts and Republican Jim Pendergraph running for the open U.S. House of Representatives District 9 seat of Rep. Sue Myrick (R) and Democrat-turned-unaffiliated commission chairman Harold Cogdell stepping down. Pendergraph lost in his party’s primary election, and Roberts lost Tuesday night to Republican nominee Robert Pittenger.

Breaking the vote down for south Charlotte, Republican Michael Hobbs – who came in fourth out of the seven candidates – took the majority of the area’s precincts and those in Matthews and Mint Hill. Hobbs also took six precincts in north Mecklenburg, getting a total of 158,096 votes.

“I appreciate all my support; all the people that helped my campaign and voted for me,” Hobbs said. He said he’ll take some time now to refocus before deciding on how to stay involved in county politics. “I’m really proud of what we did for a first-time candidate with no name recognition to be the top Republican vote-getter. I’m humbled by that.”

Republican James Peterson, who came in fifth, took four of the precincts in south Mecklenburg and 12 in the SouthPark area. He also won seven in North Mecklenburg for a total of 156,647 votes. Republican Wayne Powers, who came in sixth, took the majority of the rest of the SouthPark-area precincts, winning 14 and 155,196 votes. Libertarian Jason Bateman did not win any precincts, taking 36,353 votes.

The majority of Charlotte went blue, with Cotham winning many of the heavily populated precincts in Charlotte – and 241,509 votes – and Ratliff dominating in north Charlotte with 239,250 votes. Fuller took home 232,777 votes.

“It was a great victory for our county because so many people were engaged and they voted,” Cotham said. “The more people are engaged, the better off we all are. All our voices are important.”

Cotham, who lives in south Charlotte, will first work on getting to know and building relationships with her fellow commissioners. “We aren’t always going to agree, but we need to find where that common ground is.”

The three at-large winners will be joined by Democrats Vilma Leake, George Dunlap and Dumont Clarke, who all won Tuesday night. Dunlap and Clarke didn’t face challengers in the general election. Three Republicans won their races Tuesday night, with Karen Bentley and Bill James winning re-election and Matthew Ridenhour taking the seat of the late Neil Cooksey.

Winners will be sworn in next month, then immediately face a number of key tests that likely will start with figuring out what to do about the 2011 property tax revaluation. A review of the much-maligned revaluation will be submitted to the county commission in the coming weeks, leaving commissioners to decide what course to take on appeasing residents’ concerns. Some have discussed the possibility of throwing out the 2011 revaluation and starting over from scratch, while Republicans have asked for home foreclosures to play a larger part in the revaluation numbers, which would likely lower many people’s property values and
result in homeowners seeing lower property tax bills.

But with three commissioners who voted in favor of conducting a review – Cogdell, Cooksey and Pendergraph – no longer on the board, the three new at-large members will likely play the biggest role in determining what course the county takes on revaluation and the many other issues that may come up for the commission.

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