County Commission incumbents move on to Nov. 6 election,
but change is still possible in three district races.
by Mary Hopper
On May 8, all the incumbent At-large Democrat County Commissioners won their nominations and only face one Republican challenger, Jeremy Brasch. That means the Commission will not have the millennial sweep of the City Council. Incumbent Democrats Vilma Leake and George Dunlap (Districts 2 and 3 respectively) won their races and have no Republican challengers, so are in effect re-elected. In the contested District 4 race, Mark Jerrell beat Leigh Altman. Facing no Republican, Jerrell is also elected. While the commission will welcome an additional African American on BOCC with Jerrell, it lost the chance to add another woman with Altman.
Still undecided: BOCC’s District races in 1, 5 and 6
In the remaining three districts, Democratic women are challenging the male Republican incumbents. To see if you reside in one of those districts, visit MeckBOE.org and plug your home address into their look-up tool.
These women are like so many nationally who have been called to run by what they see happening in Washington and in their state capitals. The three district contenders are wives and mothers with long records as community volunteers. They entered their races with strong credentials and a passion to bring change.
Powell/Puckett in District 1
Elaine Powell (D) www.electelainepowell.com is challenging incumbent Jim Puckett (R) www.jim-puckett.com . Powell has been an active school advocate, served on key county boards and is especially knowledgeable on issues about the environment. This north county to west side district is similar to the suburban areas that are producing Democratic upsets across the US.
Puckett has served both on County Commission and on School Board and has been visible on district issues including the I-77 toll road. His website says he was elected to the school board in 1997 “to end forced bussing and the educationally destructive use of race in school assignment. My time on the board led to a victory for neighborhood schools and the defeat of bussing in Federal Court.” He has been quoted by the media as supportive of President Trump’s views on immigration.
Harden/Ridenhour in District 5
Susan Harden (D) www.susanbharden.com who is on the education faculty at UNCC, is opposing Republican Matthew Ridenhour www.voteridenhour.com . District 5 encompasses the wedge between Monroe Rd. and South Blvd. With a background in banking and economics and a strong track record in civic engagement, Harden will be attuned to the challenges of living on a fixed income as well as the needs of the local school system.
Ridenhour was a principal organizer of the Charlotte Tea Party and has been a “ voice for fiscal conservatism and the proper role of government. “ He is completing his third term on BOCC.
McDowell/James in District 6
Susan Rodriguez McDowell www.mcdowell4meck.com takes on the deeply entrenched Bill James www.billjames.org in District 6 that lies further south. McDowell’s website recounts the story of a person of strength and the persistence to overcome personal challenges.
In his first term, James was a member of the Commission’s Gang of Five that voted to defund the Arts & Science for its support of the local presentation of Angels in America, a Pulitzer Prize winning play about the AIDS crisis. Labeling himself a consistent conservative, he has remained outspoken on issues of sexual orientation in his 11 terms on the BOCC.
Board of County Commission races merit your attention
All three women have tough races ahead. The Harris/McCready congressional race is garnering national attention so County Commission races might get lost in the heavy ad buys and media coverage clutter. Add to that local interest in making changes in who gets sent to Raleigh and BOCC races could be overlooked. The County Commission oversees so many of the key agencies like Social Services, Health and Mental Health that can help with upward mobility. The BOCC budget allocates important funding for the school system and public libraries. County departments oversee all air quality, parks and storm water run off.
Educate yourselves about these races, especially if you can vote in one of the three districts that are still contested.