CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The polls are open and voting is under way in parts of Charlotte and in five other cities across the region where municipal elections are taking place Tuesday.
In Charlotte, runoff primaries are taking place in city council Districts 2 and 4.
There also are city-wide elections in Monroe, Morganton, Shelby and Statesville. And Hickory has a primary election, with a crowded field of mayoral candidates to be whittled down.
Polls remain open until 7:30 p.m.
Here is a look at the various races:
Only Democrats and unaffiliated voters can cast ballots today, because both runoff elections are Democratic primaries. But unaffiliated voters who voted Republican in the Sept. 10 primary are not permitted to vote today.
In District 2, college administrator Al Austin faces the Rev. Brenda Stevenson. Tuesday’s winner faces Republican Darryl Broome in the November general election.
And in District 4, retired bank examiner Gregg Phipps faces Wil Russell, an assistant project manager for a construction company. The winner faces independent Michael Zytkow njext month.
Voter turnout is expected to be light, with only about 3 percent of registered voters expected to participate.
The field of six candidates will be trimmed by voters on Tuesday to two finalists for the November election. There also are primary elections Tuesday in two city council races.
Incumbent Mayor Rudy Wright faces opposition from Jeff Brittain; Candice Harold; Joseph “Jody” Inglefield; Ernie Masche; and Terry Revels.
Brittain is a sales executive for HITS Tech, a former Hickory city employee, and has served two terms on the city’s board of adjustments.
Harold, a business consultant, is making her first run for office b ut has been active with PTA and other school organizations.
Inglefield, a physician and a former Morehead Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill, is making his first run for office.
Masche, a photojournalist and automobile retailer, is making his first run for office. He worked for many years shooting NASCAR events.
Revels, a retired transportation department manager, also is making his first run for office. He has owned three businesses in his life.
Wright has been mayor of Hickory for 12 years. He worked as a CPA for 24 years and currently runs a family business.
In the city council races, incumbent Hank Guess faces opposition from Crystal Killian and Anetia Ramseur Wright in Ward 4. And in Ward 5, the candidates are J. Michael Robbins, David Zagaroli and Joe Brannock. Incumbent Sally Fox is not seeking re-election.
High stakes will be decided by comparatively few people on tuesday in Monroe.
There are contested races for mayor and three city council seats, and the results will likely decide the balance of power on the fractious city council that is split 4-3. We say “likely,” because depending on the outcome, there’s a scenario where Monroe could wind up with a 3-3 split for some time – more on that later.
The past two off-year general elections have seen scant turnout in Monroe.
Just 8.5 percent of eligible voters, or 1,420 people, participated in 2011, according to the county Board of Elections. In 2009, turnout was 8.6 percent with 1,424 people casting ballots.
Monroe has 18,326 registered voters, and they will be voting during a time of change for the city.
There’s a new city manager, and the City Council has begun to adopt some reforms following a consultant’s report that blamed council members for helping perpetuate a dysfunctional city hall.
One more thing. The few voters who do head to the polls in October will probably need to return in November.
With this many candidates, there likely will be a runoff in at least one of the races. Winning candidates need to capture a majority of votes cast, as determined by state election rules. A runoff election would be held Nov. 5, the general election date for the rest of the region’s municipal races.
The last Monroe runoff, in 2011, saw a 7.5 percent voter turnout and the winning candidate had a 58-vote margin.
In the mayor’s contest, incumbent Bobby Kilgore is running against city Councilman Lynn Keziah and Kyle Hayes. The post is a two-year seat.
There’s an even more crowded field running for city council, where eight people are seeking three positions.
All three incumbents are looking to get re-elected to the four-year seats: Margaret Desio, Freddie Gordon and John Ashcraft. That trio, along with Keziah, form the board’s majority.
The others running for council are former Monroe police chief Debra Duncan, Surluta Anthony, Cary Rogers, Joy Heath and Kenneth Graham.
But it’s Duncan’s candidacy in particular that could tip the balance of power on the council.
Duncan announced she was running for city council in July, the day after she confirmed plans she would retire Sept. 1. Desio and others in the board majority have been critical of Duncan’s activities as chief, while one of Duncan’s biggest council supporters, Dottie Nash, is in the board minority now.
So if Duncan wins, she would knock off one of the incumbents and presumably tilt the balance of power to make the board minority the new majority.
Here’s where things get more knotty.
A Duncan victory would shift power to the current board minority if Kilgore, himself a former Monroe chief, also wins his race.
If all three council incumbents win and Keziah wins the mayor’s race, that would strengthen the majority’s hold on the board. Here’s why:
If Keziah wins, he would need to resign his council seat, and the council would appoint someone to serve out the remaining two years of Keziah’s council term, Board of Elections Director John Whitley said. That would allow the current majority to appoint Keziah’s replacement.
But what if Keziah wins and Duncan bests one of the majority incumbents? That would leave the board split 3-3. And a council that already agrees on very little could have a hard time agreeing on who would replace Keziah and become the deciding vote on the board.
The council seat would sit vacant until the board appoints a successor, Whitley said.
Two city council seats are up for grabs Tuesday.
In District 3, incumbent John Cantrell faces Nathan Chapman.
And in District 4, incumbent Alfred Hamer Jr. is opposed by Ronnie Thompson.
Voters will cast ballots in three city council races, with the mayor and other three council seats not up for re-election until 2015.
In Ward 1, incumbent Chris Mabry is not seeking re-election, and Fred Harrill Jr. is running unopposed.
In Ward 4, incumbent Dennis Bailey faces opposition from Neil Blanton.
And in Ward 5, the candidates are Kevin Allen, William Allen Gray and Ben Kittrell. Incumbent Joel Shores Jr. is not running for re-election.
There also is an election Tuesday in the small Cleveland County town of Kingstown. Mayor David Lattimore faces opposition from Sharon Martin.
And two of Kingstown’s four town council seats are at stake. Incumbent Horace Jefferies joins Clarissa Jennings-Reid, Tammy Spikes and James Wilson in the race. Incumbent Vickie Wray is not running this year.
This will be a year of change in Statesville.
Even though Mayor Costi Kutteh is running unopposed in Tuesday’s voting, there will still be at least four new faces on the council in December after the victors from this fall’s elections take office.
Four of five incumbents (Bonita Eisele, John Gregory, Ron Matthews and Cecil Stallard) who were due to seek re-election this year decided to retire, leaving 13 candidates vying for the five open slots on the City Council. Other than Ward 2 incumbent C.O. “Jap“ Johnson, none of the other candidates has been elected to public office.
In the at-large council race, the two candidates with the most votes will be winners.
Candidates are Ron Bell, 66, a retired FAA air controller; Karen Keaton, 54, a retired medical lab worker; William Morgan, 50, founder of Capital Management Group, an investment and retirement planning firm; J.B. “Jim” Rogers III, 61, a former Army officer; Michael Schlesinger, 49, a practicing urologist with Piedmont Health Care and chief of surgery at Iredell Memorial Hospital; Chris Tillman, 39, married, an employment counselor with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Salisbury; and Jon Sheppard, who did not respond to Observer requests for information.
In Ward 2 (center/north), the highest vote-getter wins. Candidates are Incumbent C.O. (Jap) Johnson, 77, is running for his seventh consecutive term and is a retired firefighter; and Mark Kleinhenz, 45, president of MWK & Associates and a Navy supply officer.
In Ward 3 (center city), where the highest vote-getter wins, the candidates are: Peter A. Molleur, 61, a software specialist with Iredell County; and Jarrod Phifer, 27, a contractor at Vanguard Investment Firm.
In Ward 5 (center/west), the highest vote-getter wins. Candidates are: Arnold W. Watt, 49, Voice-over-Internet specialist with Wynncom Inc.; and Gene Houpe, 45, a retired police officer who is now a reserve police officer with the Spencer Police Department and is owner and operator of KZ Systems Carpeting Cleaning.