Driggs, Smith come out on top in local primaries

Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith are moving on for a chance to represent Ballantyne and SouthPark on Charlotte City Council after less than 7 percent of Charlotte residents turned out to vote in Tuesday’s primary election.

Primaries were needed across the city Tuesday, Sept. 10, to trim crowded candidate fields down to one candidate in each party per district and in the mayoral race. The at-large race is allowed four candidates per party.

Kenny Smith, in the SouthPark-area District 6 Republican race, barely edged out Kate Payerle for the right to represent his party in November. Candidates James Peterson and Ken Lindholm came in third and fourth, respectively.

Smith will not face a Democrat challenger for District 6, which has long been held by Republican Andy Dulin – who opted not to seek re-election. The district is heavily Republican, according to voter registration information.

“I plan on rolling up my sleeves and going to work on Day 1 to make our community a better place to leave,” said Smith, the presumptive District 6 councilman. “I want to be plugged in with neighborhood leaders. I want residents to know that I’m there to serve them.”

After a tough couple of months campaigning, Smith said his first act of business is to take his kids to the zoo on Saturday then spending some time with Dulin getting “brought up to speed on issues in my district.”

One of those issues Smith already is interested in is spending.

“I want to help council prioritize the spending,” Smith said. “I don’t think we need to keep putting tax increase burdens on the citizens of Charlotte.”

Payerle was disappointed when reflecting on her campaign Wednesday, Sept. 11 – partly for the loss but more so for the poor voter turnout in the primary.

“Charlotte is at a turning point in its economic development, but until more and different citizens turn out at the polls, the politics will not change,” Payerle said. “I am grateful to my supporters, and I truly admire the 7 percent of voters that participated in this election. However, they should not have to carry the weight of our democracy alone. I strongly urge (people) to learn about our local candidates and exercise your right to vote.”

For Ed Driggs, this is his second recent run at local government. He fell in his bid to unseat Republican Bill James on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners last year, but will now go on to face Democrat candidate Bakari Burton in the general election. The winner will take Warren Cooksey’s seat, as he opted not to run for re-election.

Driggs beat out Jay Privette, a former Charlotte City Council candidate in District 7, by 267 votes. Duncan Wilson came in third. Despite still facing a general election challenge, Driggs said he’s looking now at what he plans to do on council.

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with city council to get taxes down in this area and to work for smarter spending; to use resources more efficiently,” Driggs said. He hopes to work with council and “communicate with them that lower taxes and smarter spending is possible. … I think people are tired of confrontation and discord in government.”

Driggs also said he wants to start working toward mending relations between Charlotte and Raleigh after the ongoing debate between leaders in both cities over control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“I think the relationship we have with Raleigh is very important, and I want to build strong relationships with my Republican counterparts,” Driggs said.

Privette emailed constituents following his primary loss, urging them to support Driggs in his bid for city council and lamenting Tuesday’s voter turnout. Having now lost in two consecutive Republican primaries in District 7, Privette said he just wants to see someone from his party fill the seat when the new council is seated in December.

“We need Ed Driggs, not Bakari Burton, to keep Charlotte from going down the same path as Detroit,” he said in his newsletter.

South Charlotte voters also were able to cast ballots in the Charlotte mayoral primaries, where Ballantyne’s Patrick Cannon, a current councilman, edged out James Mitchell, another councilman, and two other candidates for the Democrat bid. Cannon won many of the south Charlotte precincts, while Mitchell won many of the Uptown and Myers Park-area precincts.

Republican Edwin Peacock, a former councilman, beat David Rice for the party’s mayoral nomination.

Republican and Libertarian candidates for council at-large did not face a primary. Voters will pick four at-large councilmembers from the four Democrats, four Republicans and one Libertarian.

South Charlotte residents also will be able to vote in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education races in District 5, around SouthPark, and District 6, around Ballantyne, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. Incumbent Eric Davis will face challenger Edward Donaldson in District 5, and Paul Bailey, Bolyn McClung and Doug Wrona are running for District 6. Current District 6 board member Amelia Stinson-Wesley is not running for re-election.

Many of the candidates will appear at a political forum at the Ballantyne Festival on Oct. 5, a Saturday. People will get a chance to speak with candidates and try chili from mayoral candidates Cannon and Peacock. The event will take place at the Morrison YMCA, 9405 Bryant Farms Road, and last throughout the day.

Election Day is Nov. 5, a Tuesday. The new council will be seated in December.

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