Declaring himself a “proud son of Charlotte” ready to create the building blocks for the city’s future growth, Anthony Foxx officially kicked off his campaign for mayor Thursday at West Charlotte High School.
His first-day goal was simple: Introduce himself to a city he has known since birth, but one that has changed substantially.
Despite voting overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, Charlotte has not elected a Democratic mayor in 22 years. Foxx, 37, seeks to replace Mayor Pat McCrory, who is stepping down after 14 years. His likely opponent is Republican and fellow council member John Lassiter.
Joan Martin, sister-in-law of former GOP Gov. Jim Martin, set the tone for the campaign kickoff with a biographical video that recounted Foxx’s life. Former Mayor Harvey Gantt introduced the candidate.
“I feel really good standing here this evening,” Gantt told the crowd, estimate between 150 and 200 people. “Here is a young man who grew up in this community, who went to school in this community, who went to college in this community, who understands this community, who has gotten the experience of serving on boards and committees and on our city council… He is ready to do this job.”
Foxx was short on specifics, but talked of his “unlikely story” — being born less than a mile from West Charlotte High to a 19-year-old mother, being raised by grandparents and educated in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, attending Davidson College, earning a law degree, working in all three branches of federal government and being elected to city council.
“My family passed along the values that had been the bedrock of Charlotte families for generations: hard work, faith, self-reliance and personal responsibilities,” he said.
He also recounted how visionary leaders helped guide Charlotte through a difficult past, whether during the Great Depression or while quietly breaking down racial segregation laws that ripped apart other Southern cities.
“Those leaders understood the power of pulling together for the common good,” he said.
As the city now faces an economic recession and new challenges related to growth, Foxx said Charlotte again needs visionary leadership.
“I say the secret to our future is really in our past,” he said, “our capacity to envision the possibilities for Charlotte.”
Gantt, the city’s first and only African American to serve as mayor, told Qcitymetro after the event that Foxx will have a tough challenge but predicted victory.
“Democrats in the community proved that they can put people in office,” he said. “They’ve been proving it for years. I guess the zenith of that was last year, with the Obama election and all the other people who got dragged along. I think Anthony Foxx can continue that momentum and that direction.”
Asked if he believed the Obama victory would carry over to the Foxx campaign, Gantt said the effect would be limited.
“This is a local race,” he said. “Local issues will take precedence. How these candidates reach out to the public here probably is going to be the key thing. He (Foxx) can build on that (Obama) energy, but he’s going to have to run his own campaign.”