Voters in southern Mecklenburg County voted overwhelmingly to stick with the conservative they know, propelling Commissioner Bill James by an in-party challenge in the Republican primary and a Democrat candidate that looked to portray herself as a fiscally conservative alternative to the longtime county commission mainstay.
James took nearly 57 percent of the vote in the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners District 6 race this year. District 6 covers the Ballantyne, Piper Glen and Providence Estates areas of south Charlotte, as well as Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. James is a Matthews resident.
James won 43,799 of the 76,848 votes cast in District 6, winning 22 of the area’s 29 precincts. Challenger Connie Green-Johnson, a Democrat who positioned herself during the race as a fiscal conservative in the heavily Republican District 6, took 33,049 votes.
“I don’t intend on changing my approach or my positions at all,” James said of what voters should expect out of him. “So for those who didn’t vote for me, buckle up.”
Leading up to election, James repeatedly said that voters knew what they were getting in him, which is why they keep putting him in office. Known for speaking his mind and not shying away from taking a stand on controversial issues, James has become a voice for voters in south Mecklenburg that feel they were cheated by the 2011 property tax revaluation and want to see less spending in general done at the county level.
He’s also become a key piece in the push to de-annex the Ballantyne area from Charlotte, suggesting the move during last year’s city-county consolidation discussions. James has said that if Charlotte and Mecklenburg County want to consolidate some services, then Ballantyne needs to be allowed to form its own town and have an equal stake at the negotiating table.
As for where the commission goes from here, James doesn’t have high hopes.
“The new board is going to end up probably being one of the worst the county commission has ever had,” James said. “I don’t think the Republicans can expect anything reasonable or fair about it, but I never expect that.”
Green-Johnson won seven precincts on Tuesday night, coming close in a number of others – but not nearly enough to threaten James’ hold on District 6.
“We knew our campaign was an uphill battle, but we decided to do it anyway,” Green-Johnson said. “Would I have loved to win? Yes. But Mr. James has a base. Hopefully we sent him a message. I hope that he feels that he should and has to be representative of all constituencies.
“I’m going to be real positive. We’re not going to just let him get away with making comments again and being negative to certain groups of people.”
In May, James won a primary vote against in-party challenger Ed Driggs, of south Charlotte. James won nearly 52 percent of the ballots cast, winning by nearly 700 votes.
Speaking of both challengers, James said Green-Johnson “tried to do the same thing my primary opponent did, which was saying ‘I’m just like Bill James, just kinder and gentler.’ Problem is, people don’t want kinder and gentler. They want tougher and harder. They want someone who will stand up for them and not take any prisoners.”
The elected commissioners will be sworn into office at a special ceremony Dec. 3.