The big question in the North Carolina political world this year is whether there will be a blue wave big enough to give Democrats even a small semblance of power in Raleigh.
But first, we have to figure out who’s going to be on the final ballot.
Early voting has already begun for the May primary elections, where voters decide who from their political party will be on the November ballot.
If you’re a registered Democrat, you may only vote in the Democratic primary. If you’re a Republican, you can only vote in that primary. If you’re unaffiliated, you can choose which party primary you’d like to vote in.
Want more info on early voting? Here it is.
Need to find out your district and elected officials (and if you’re registered to vote)? Do that here.
Primary election day is May 8.
Now, on to the races.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff
This race is down toward the bottom of your ballot, but I list it first because it’s countywide, hotly contested and the whole race will be wrapped up in the primary. Only Democrats have filed for the race.
Sheriff Irwin Carmichael is the incumbent and running for his second term. He’s an unusual political character, though: a conservative Democrat, as we wrote about in February. He has made some good efficiency moves at the jail and supported the 287(g) program that identifies illegal immigrants in the jail and turns them over to the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The campaign has really centered around this program, so Carmichael has traveled the county explaining what exactly it does. The sheriff’s office does not deport people, he’s quick to point out. And the sheriff’s office does not go out looking for illegal immigrants — they only identify the people who are booked into jail.
Carmichael’s campaign has been asking Republicans to change to “unaffiliated” to be able to vote for him in the primary.
If you’re more conservative politically or support the 287(g) program, you’ll vote for Carmichael.
He faces a super strong opponent in Garry McFadden, a retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department homicide detective who has racked up all the traditional Democratic endorsements. McFadden starred in a reality TV show on homicide investigations for the Investigation Discovery channel and still does a ton of security work locally. He’s also campaigned against the 287(g) program.
If you’re more liberal politically, you’ll likely vote for McFadden.
Democrat Antoine Ensley is also on the ballot, and he has a high quality resume. He’s a former police officer and SWAT negotiator and once served as a town police chief.
Charlotte is home to two U.S. House districts. Most of the city is in Congressional District 12, currently represented by Democrat Alma Adams.
Much of south Charlotte is in Congressional District 9, represented by Republican Robert Pittenger.
You’re not going to get a ton of choices in the primary. The only real one is in the Republican race for District 9.
District 12 Democrats: While U.S. Rep. Alma Adams faced a tough challenge two years ago in this primary, she does not have any well-funded opponents here. There are names on the ballot though. Neither Gabe Ortiz and Patrick Register has not disclosed any fundraising. But at least they have campaign committees. I can’t find one for Keith Young, and he actually lives in Asheville.
District 12 Republicans: This almost doesn’t matter because the district is so heavily Democratic that the race will be sewn up in the primary. Paul Bonham, Paul Wright and Carl Persson are all on the ballot, but none of them have done any serious fundraising or campaigning. Bonham has reported just under $6,000 in contributions, and Persson lent his campaign around $4,000. Wright is a perennial candidate who lives in Mount Olive.
District 9 Republicans: This race features a re-match of U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger and Mark Harris, the Charlotte pastor who fell short by only 134 votes in the primary two years ago. The race has mostly been about who is closer to the president, and Pittenger played a trump card last week when he appeared with Vice President Mike Pence. Harris, however, got the endorsement of N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop and is running ads saying that “draining the swamp” starts with throwing out Pittenger. Clarence Goins is also on the ballot but has made little noise.
If you want a reliable Republican vote on Trump initiatives like the budget, trade and foreign relations, you’ll go with Pittenger. If you’re more of a religious conservative and want a candidate who’s been a bit more of a fiscal hawk, you’ll go Harris.
District 9 Democrats: The general election is going to be super fascinating, but the primary just isn’t. For the first time in years, the Democrats have put up a super strong candidate in District 9, former Marine and Charlotte entrepreneur Dan McCready. He’s raised more than $1.6 million, far outpacing anybody else in District 9. Christian Cano is also on the ballot and has drawn some headlines for calling McCready a vulgar term for a female that starts with a “p.” He’s raised about $36,000.
For the first time this year, every single N.C. House and Senate race is being contested — meaning you’ll get an actual choice in November. This isn’t necessarily the case for the primary.
Charlotte is home to five state Senate districts and 11 state House districts. Want to look up yours again? Here’s the link.
Some of the primaries will be more contested than others. The top three are for N.C. Sen. Joel Ford and N.C. Rep. Rodney Moore’s seats on the Democrat side, and N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop’s seat on the Republican one.
Here are the N.C. Senate districts:
N.C. Senate 38 Democrats: Joel Ford is the incumbent here, and he’s something of a maverick within his own party. He’s been willing to compromise with Republicans, and is regularly criticized by LGBT activists for his votes to exempt magistrates from performing same-sex marriages if it violates their religious beliefs. He’s perceived as vulnerable after placing a dismal third in the Democratic primary for Charlotte mayor last year. He faces a strong challenger from the left in Mujtaba A. Mohammed, a public defender who’s also on the board of the Council for Children’s Rights. Notably, he won the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Roderick Davis and Tim Wallis are also on the ballot but have much less support.
If you’re a progressive liberal, you’ll likely vote for Mohammed. If you prefer centrist, pragmatic leadership, you’ll back Ford.
N.C. Senate 39 Republicans: Incumbent Dan Bishop is a polarizing figure, and he’s got a well-funded challenger in Beth Monaghan. Bishop was one of the primary authors of House Bill 2 and has been outspoken on Twitter and TV. He’s also a big supporter of tax cuts and deregulation. Monaghan is campaigning as the more moderate choice. Her son is gay, and she told the Observer that House Bill 2 “saddened and infuriated” her and spurred her to run.
N.C. Senate 39 Democrats: The Democrats also have a primary here, but this district is safer for the GOP than some others. Chad Stachowicz, is founder and CEO of the 14-employee IT deployment firm Cloverhound. He faces Ann Harlan, a CPCC sociology professor who was inspired by the women’s march.
None of the other Senate districts have primaries. Here are the House districts:
N.C. House 99 Democrats: Incumbent Rodney Moore faces tough competition in this race, which should be decided in the primary. Moore has been under fire with the state Board of Elections for some unreported contributions, which he chalks up to bad bookkeeping. But Moore’s base appears to have turned on him, and he did not get the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus. Instead, they went with Nasif Majeed, a 72-year-old small-time developer and former pilot and Burger King franchise owner who served on the Charlotte City Council in the 90s. Priscilla Johnson and Jackson Pethtal are also on the ballot, but neither has reported raising any money (though to be fair, Majeed has only loaned himself $2,000 so far).
N.C. House 101 Democrats: This is an open seat, after 7-term N.C. Rep. Beverly M. Earle announced her retirement. Carolyn Logan has the Black Political Caucus endorsement and appears to have the inside track for this safe blue seat in northwest Charlotte. Also on the ballot is 22-year-old Chance Harris (a former intern for U.S. Rep. Alma Adams), plus Gregory J. Miller and Lucille Puckett — who have had no visible campaigns.
N.C. House 98 Democrats: Paralegal Christy Clark faces recent UNC Charlotte grad Branden Rosenlieb to compete in the fairly safe Republican district. Clark has raised more than $33,000, which is really good for the long-shot campaign.
N.C. House 88 Republicans: Ty Turner will be on a ballot with Benton Blaine in the Republican primary. Turner is a former Democrat and LGBT activist. Blaine says he’s not campaigning anymore. It won’t likely matter, because this district was redrawn significantly after Democrat Mary Belk ousted Rob Bryan two years ago. It was a south Charlotte district, and now it includes the airport area and western Mecklenburg County.
N.C. House 102 Democrats: Incumbent Becky Carney faces a nominal challenge from Guilford College student Josh Jarrett.
N.C. House 105 Democrats: Wesley Harris appears on the ballot alongside Ayoub Ouederni, but Ouederni has withdrawn from the race.
N.C. House 106 Democrats: Incumbent Carla Cunningham is on the ballot with Blanche Penn, a former school board candidate and community activist. Penn has not raised any money.
Board of County Commissioners
Mecklenburg County commissioners are elected much like the City Council — with a small number who serve “at-large” and are elected by the entire county, and then representatives for different districts.
And like the City Council, the at-large seats are dominated by Democrats. There are seven Democrats vying for three at-large seats.
All three incumbents are running: Pat Cotham, Trevor Fuller and Ella Scarborough. Fuller is a former commissioners chairman and is particularly dedicated to expanding early childhood education. Cotham is a dynamo and well-respected on both sides of the aisle. Scarborough is the current chairwoman but is perceived this year as a weaker candidate. All three got the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus.
Ray McKinnon, a Charlotte pastor and community activist, appears to be the strongest challenger. He’s working with Sam Spencer, a plugged-in local politico who worked on the campaigns of former Mayor Jennifer Roberts and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams. McKinnon has garnered a lot of influential endorsements, including from LGBT rights group MeckPac, business/real estate group REBIC and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators.
McKinnon has, in turn, endorsed Jamie Hildreth, a former chairman of MeckPac and secretary of the county Democratic Party. Hildreth also picked up the educators’ endorsement (they notably did not endorse any incumbents).
Also on the ballot are Gerenda Davis and Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel, who have not campaigned visibly.
If you like the status quo, you’ll vote for Cotham, Fuller and Scarborough.
If you’re ready for a little change, but don’t want to rock the boat, you’ll vote Cotham, Fuller and McKinnon.
If you want a new ideas movement, you’ll vote Cotham, McKinnon and Hildreth.
Here are the primaries in the county commission districts.
District 2 Democrats: Long-time commissioner Vilma Leake again faces a challenge from Angela G. Edwards, a community advocate who ran two years ago and was pounded by 48 points.
District 3 Democrats: Incumbent George Dunlap faces two challengers this year. Angela R. Ambroise ran for school board a few years back and is active in the Villa Heights community. She’s focused her campaign on affordable housing. George “Giovanni” Dortche is a younger guy who has been out and about appearing at community events. Both will face a steep uphill battle against Dunlap, though.
District 4 Democrats: This is an open seat with Dumont Clarke not running again after 18 years on the board. There are two pretty strong challengers here. Leigh Altman is Clarke’s choice to fill the seat. She’s a former assistant attorney general and Dilworth resident. Then there’s Mark Jerrell, a mainstay in Democratic politics. Both are in their mid-40s. City Councilman Braxton Winston and commissioner Path Cotham have appeared at some of Jerrell’s events.
Spencer Merriweather became Mecklenburg County’s district attorney after Andrew Murray was tapped by the Trump administration for a U.S. attorney post. Now Merriweather is running to keep his seat in a race that will be locked up in the Democratic primary.
Merriweather is a former homicide prosecutor that carried Murray’s endorsement even though they’re in different parties.
He faces Toussaint Romain, a public defender who rocketed onto the political scene in 2016 during the protests of the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. He served as something of an intermediary between police and protestors.
Romain was long expected to run for the position, but it took him awhile to declare. He speaks about holding police accountable, decriminalizing marijuana and ending the death penalty.
If you’re looking for a steady hand who’s already making reasonable changes to protect poor people while going after criminals, you’ll go with Merriweather. If you’re looking for somebody who would dramatically change the system, you’ll go Romain.