Analysis: Making sense of Tuesday’s election results

The most obvious narrative may be the power of incumbency and name recognition.

Glenn H. Burkins
Tanya Archie-Younge, 56 and her husband, Jesse Younge, 62, cast their ballots at Precinct #25 at the West Charlotte Recreation Center Tuesday, September 10, 2019. (John D. Simmons/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt taken from today’s Morning Brew newsletter. Sign up to have Morning Brew delivered to your in-box.

Looking for a common thread in yesterday’s primary election results? The most obvious narrative may be the power of incumbency and name recognition. Every Charlotte candidate seeking re-election to the same seat won his/her primary.

Mayor Vi Lyles, facing a weak field of Democratic challengers, coasted to an easy win with nearly 87% of the vote, which sets her up nicely for re-election this fall, when she’ll face an equally weak Republican challenger.

City Council: All four at-large members will be on the fall ballot. The only factor of note on Tuesday was a slight shift in popularity, with Braxton Winston this time besting James “Smuggie” Mitchell for the most total votes. In the 2017 primary, Mitchell won that title.

Dimple Ajmera and Julie Eiselt also switched places in the at-large race, coming in No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.

She gambled and lost: LaWana Mayfield, who gave up a comfortable seat in District 3 to run at-large, came in fifth — more than 2,400 votes behind Eiselt – and won’t be returning to council. She lost big in the predominately white precincts of south Charlotte, where some voters got robo calls urging them to vote against her.

Mayfield caused a stir last year with controversial remarks about police (she called them “homegrown terrorists”) and the 9/11 terrorist attacks (she questioned whether planes really brought down the twin towers in New York).  Those remarks apparently didn’t hurt her in the city’s predominately Black precincts, where she again got rock-solid support.

In District 2, name recognition was a likely factor in Malcolm Graham’s victory over a field of lesser-known candidates. Graham is a former state senator and a former City Council member. He will likely cruise to an easy win this fall in the general-election race to replace Justin Harlow, who is stepping down in December after serving one term.

A final narrative: The voter backlash that some observers predicted as a result of City Council’s vote to host the 2020 Republican National Convention didn’t materialize. Not in the least.

Lyles, who championed Charlotte as the host city, remained popular with voters in all parts of the city, as did Mitchell, who voted with the majority to bring the RNC to Charlotte. Mayfield, however, who most vehemently opposed hosting the RNC and spoke most eloquently against it, failed in her at-large bid.

By the numbers: Slightly more than 21% of eligible voters cast ballots in this year’s primary, compared with about 8% in 2017. The increase largely was due to heavy turnout in parts of south Charlotte, where a congressional race between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop drove voters to the polls. Bishop won that race by a narrow margin.

See full election results here.

Click here to read the rest of today’s Morning Brew.

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