CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Mecklenburg Board of Elections was packed Friday as filing for municipal and school board races opened, with candidates submitting paperwork and their supporters holding rallies.
For city of Charlotte elections, the biggest surprise was the decision by Democrat Michael Barnes to run for an at-large seat. Barnes has represented District 4 in northeast Charlotte since 2005.
Barnes joins what is becoming a crowded field for four at-large seats in the Democratic primary. Also filing Friday were at-large incumbents Beth Pickering and Claire Fallon, who were elected in 2011. Vi Lyles, a former assistant city manager, also filed for the Democratic primary.
Leonard Richardson, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher, and Wil Russell, a project manager at a construction company, are also running for at-large seats as Democrats.
As of 5 p.m., one Republican had filed for an at-large City Council seat, Vanessa Faura.
Faura said she is running because she has a passion for Charlotte. “I have always been a committed activist,” Faura said. “Now it’s time for me to be on the inside.”
Filing for local political offices in North Carolina runs through July 19.
Although turnout for off-year elections tends to be low, the stakes are high. The highest-profile race in Mecklenburg County is for Charlotte mayor, a post that puts occupants on the state and national stage.
Democrat Patsy Kinsey, who was appointed mayor Monday, will serve until December. She replaced Anthony Foxx, who started Tuesday as U.S. secretary of transportation. The previous mayor, Pat McCrory, was elected governor last year.
Kinsey has said she will not run for mayor and will run for her old District 1 seat, which she vacated Monday. She had not filed to run as of 5 p.m. Friday.
Among the leading declared candidates for Charlotte mayor: Democrats Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon and District 2 representative James Mitchell, and former council member Edwin Peacock, a Republican.
At 12:30 p.m., Cannon filed his paperwork to run for mayor, surrounded by friends and supporters who packed the Board of Elections lobby.
Also up for election are six district seats on the nine-member Charlotte-Mecklenburg School board. Four incumbents and one challenger filed Friday. Rhonda Lennon in District 1, Joyce Waddell in District 3, Tom Tate in District 4 and Eric Davis in District 5 signed up to run again.
Paul Bailey, mayor pro tem of Matthews, filed to run for the District 6 school board seat. He has served nine terms on the Matthews Town Council, but this is his first run for school board.
The school board oversees the nation’s 17th-largest school district, which is one of the region’s largest employers. The quality of public education is generally considered a major force in economic development and quality of life in the county. Board members serve four-year terms, with district representatives joining the three at-large members who were elected in 2011.
The last district election, in 2009, brought five newcomers to the nine-member board. They ended up overseeing teacher layoffs, school closings and a superintendent search that brought Heath Morrison to CMS last year.
The city of Charlotte primary is Sept. 10, and the general election is Nov. 5. The school board and municipal offices in Mecklenburg’s six smaller municipalities are nonpartisan.