Democrats sweep majority of Charlotte municipal races, with key win for Republicans

Republican Charlotte city councilman Tariq Bakari (center) won re-election on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2023, while Democrats won most other races in the county. Source: City of Charlotte livestream

Listen to this story (5 minutes)

  • Republicans Bokhari and Driggs retain seats on city council.

Last week, Mecklenburg County’s municipal elections resulted in many victories for Democrats, with Republicans holding critical seats on the Charlotte City Council.  

Much like in 2022, Democrats won most races with little opposition. For instance, the non-partisan race for Mecklenburg County School Board saw registered Democrats secure victory in what was a contentious election year for the three seats on the ballot. On Tuesday night, Democrat-endorsed candidates Lenora Shipp, Monty Witherspoon, and Liz Monterrey were the top three vote-getters. Bill Fountain, the only registered Republican among the 14 candidates on the ballot, finished in fifth place.

Their victory came despite MeckGOP’s allegations that a progressive group made false claims regarding candidates for CMS school board who ran as a “Unity Slate.”

Across the county victories for Republicans were in short supply, a familiar reality given the political demographics in the heavily Democratic city. Republican James Bowers, who ran in City Council District 3, lost his race to Democrat Tiawana Deling Brown. Brown earned 6,248 votes to Bowers’ 1,688.

Driggs, Bakari hold seats

However, Republicans Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs secured victory in their City Council Districts 6 and 7 races, respectively.

Controversy had been prevalent in the weeks leading up to the election regarding Bokhari’s opponent, Stephanie Hand, who had claimed for many months that she “ran airports” as part of her professional credentials. Many challenged this assertion, including Bokhari, who hired an airplane to fly a banner reading, “Want the plane truth? Vote Bokhari.”

“This was a tough one,” Bokhari said in his victory speech to supporters. “We were up against stiff odds, and we knew it. There are three major parties or affiliations representing District 6 and they are, in order, Unaffiliated, Democrat, and Republican, and we pulled it off today in spite of that.”

Bokhari also said that voters in his district were eager for a balance of representation and diversity of thought on the council comprised of nine Democrats and two Republicans.

Charlie Mulligan, who served as Bokhari’s campaign manager, echoed the sentiment about ensuring voters understood the importance of diversity of perspective.

“We worked really, really hard in this election,” he told Carolina Journal. “We faced a tough opponent and changing demographics. So, the big key for us is that we knew the Republican votes were there. We knew there was still a lot of interest in having diversity on the council.”

“uphill battle”

Unaffiliated voters continue to play a significant role in Charlotte’s electorate, ranking second out of all voting blocs in Mecklenburg County.

Speaking with CJ after the election, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, a Republican, said that despite the electoral numbers, Republicans cannot afford to give up.

“If you look at races in Mecklenburg County, a lot of folks are going to say, ‘Oh, you can write off Mecklenburg County. Charlotte is a blue city in a blue county.’ Well, ok, it is a blue city in a blue county. But that doesn’t mean that we as Republicans should throw our cards on the table and walk away and say we’re done,” said Ridenhour. “There’s still work we can do and there’s still races we can run and win. It’s always been a question since time immemorial about how unaffiliated voters are going to break. In previous years, the GOP was winning unaffiliated voters here 55 or 65 percent. Unfortunately, over the last few federal election cycles, we’ve been losing those unaffiliated voters at a rate of 60-65 percent. That just makes it an uphill battle.”

Elsewhere in the county, Republican former congressional candidate Dr. Leon Threatt won a seat on the Board of Commissioners for the Town of Matthews.

As previously reported, CMS had been lobbying to pass a new bond referendum totaling $2.5 billion, the largest in NC history. The referendum passed, with 63 percent voting “Yes” and 37 percent voting “No.”