Will the millennial wave in Charlotte politics continue this year?

Will the millennial wave in Charlotte politics continue this year?
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Last year, millennial candidates rocked Charlotte politics.

Five brand new politicians under the age of 40 won seats on the City Council, unseating incumbents sometimes several decades their senior and reshaping local government.

A sixth, 31-year-old Dimple Ajmera, won an at-large seat on the council against the wishes of much of Charlotte’s political establishment. She even won the endorsement of former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl.

[Agenda story: Millennials are about to control the City Council. How will they change Charlotte?]

They’re already making their mark, giving Charlotteans unprecedented access to the inner workings of government. A new podcast from new council members Larken Egleston and Tariq Bokhari was even written about in the Wall Street Journal.

Now, younger politicians are hoping to make a mark on the county commission.

The primary election is Tuesday, and as usual it will be more important than November’s general election in most county commissioners races.

This year, it features two well-funded and organized millennial candidates, Ray McKinnon (37) and Jamie Hildreth (28), seeking at-large seats.

The county commission has three members who are elected across the entire county, and then six members elected from individual districts. Together, the Board of County Commissioners is responsible for the roughly 5,500-employee county government, which maintains parks, handles property taxes, runs the health department, court system and elections apparatus.

All three incumbent at-large commissioners are running for re-election: Democrats Pat Cotham, Trevor Fuller and Ella Scarborough. All are 50 or older.

There are indications that at least one of the younger candidates could make waves in the primary.

County commission races are typicallly low-budget affairs. But McKinnon’s campaign announced last week that it had raised $37,990, more than three incumbents put together. He’s also earned the endorsements of The Charlotte Observer, LGBT rights group MeckPac, business/real estate group REBIC and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators.

The younger City Council members are helping out, too. Braxton Winston, who earned the most votes in the Democratic at-large primary for City Council, helped produce a video in support of McKinnon. Egleston has also endorsed him.

“I think the county commission needs some new blood the way that City Council did,” Egleston said on his podcast. He noted that McKinnon probably has the best chance. “It’s gonna require knocking off an incumbent, but as several of us showed on City Council last year that can be done, and he’s certainly done the groundwork, I think, to put himself in a position to do it.”

In 2014, it took 15,000 votes to be one of the three Democrats to progress to November’s ballot.

While they are perhaps not millennials, two more candidates are running for county commission who are just on the other side of 40.

  • Angela Ambroise, 42, is running as a Democrat in District 3, the seat currently held by George Dunlap.
  • Jeremy Brasch, 43, is running for an at-large seat as a Republican. He will not be in a primary election as the only Republican on the ballot.
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