A mere 969 votes just determined a City Council winner

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Fewer than 1,000 voters just determined a City Council member.

Democrat Matt Newton won the second primary for the District 5 seat on Tuesday with 57 percent of the vote.

But with an abysmally small turnout, that translated to only a 241 vote margin.

Newton, 38, is essentially assured a seat on the City Council come winter because there are no Republican candidates in the race.


Newton is an attorney who focuses on indigent services, an active member of the local ACLU and until recently the chairman of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. He won the endorsement of the LGBT group MeckPAC/EqualityNC.

He’s also something of a prodigy. He graduated Myers Park High at age 16 and UNC Wilmington at 19.

If you’re wondering who he’ll represent, here’s a quick primer. There are 11 members of City Council. Four are elected at-large, meaning the entire city votes on them. Then there are seven districts that divide the city, each with a representative chosen by voters just in that area.

The District 5 seat represents much of east Charlotte.

Newton’s victory was something of an upset.

He finished second in the initial primary election, held in September, behind Darrell Bonapart.

September primary results

Bonapart, an insurance broker and Army veteran, has regularly run for public office but never won. He also regularly failed to file campaign finance paperwork.  He did, however, hold the endorsement of the powerful Black Political Caucus.

With six people on the ballot, neither candidate managed the 40 percent of the overall vote to avoid a runoff election — thus Tuesday’s contest.

Turnout was 3 percent.

Turnout is already poor in municipal primary elections. Less than 8 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in September.

It’s even worse in second primaries, particularly when there’s no mayor’s race on the ballot to drive attention to the election.

Turnout Tuesday landed at just 3 percent of the 56,000 voters in District 5.

Budgets were similarly small. Newton raised about $12,000 before the primary, according to campaign finance reports.

That compares with the $41,300 raised by Larken Egleston, who won the District 1 primary, the $33,000 raised by Tariq Bokhari in District 6 and the $20,500 raised by Justin Harlow, who took District 2.

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Andrew Dunn
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