With six months until filing begins, a number of strong Charlotte City Council candidates are considering primary challenges in this November’s election.

Both Democratic and Republican incumbents are expected to face stiff competition. The Democratic at-large primary looks to be crowded, and both incumbent Republicans on the board are likely to face challenges.

Here’s what Longleaf Politics has been able to find out.

Mayfield shakes up at-large field

Four-term District 3 councilwoman LaWana Mayfield has decided to run for an at-large seat in 2019, WFAE’s Steve Harrison reported in his Inside Politics newsletter.

That sets up what’s expected to be five incumbent City Council members — Mayfield, Julie Eiselt, Braxton Winston, Dimple Ajmera and James “Smuggie” Mitchell — running for four at-large seats in the Democratic primary.

Mayfield is potentially the farthest-left candidate on the City Council, followed by Winston. And Democratic primary voters seem to have an appetite for liberal candidates. Winston was the second-highest vote-getter in the 2017 primary as a first-time candidate.

Photo of LaWana Mayfield via Facebook

Also, don’t forget: Former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon is scheduled to get his voter eligibility back this year after being arrested and imprisoned on corruption charges. He’s been widely rumored to be in the mix for a council seat again.

This arrangement puts the most stress on mayor pro tem Julie Eiselt, who has broad crossover appeal among moderates and conservatives — but that doesn’t help her in a Democratic primary.

Republican sources tell Longleaf Politics that one GOP member is expected to run at-large: Brandon Pierce.

Both incumbent Republicans could face primary battles

Strong challengers are considering entering the Republican primary against the council’s two GOP incumbents: Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs.

In District 6, Bokhari squeaked out a primary victory over Edifice CEO Eric Laster by just a few hundred votes. Laster told Longleaf Politics that he is considering another run to be a strong conservative voice on council. He said he’s been asked by a lot of people to run, but hasn’t made up his mind.

“I’m not going to say no, but I’m not going to say yes, either,” he said.

There’s a similar situation in District 7. Victoria Nwasike, a business owner, former president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Republican Women and co-chair of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, confirms that she’s thinking about challenging Ed Driggs.

“Yes, there have been conversations about a District 7 run,” she told Longleaf Politics. “However, a decision has not been made either way.”

Victoria Nwasike

These primary decisions take on unusual import in the months after the three incumbent Republicans were swept off the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. Presumably, Democrats will mount unusually strong candidates in the general election in 2019.

Notable absences from the race

One notable absence from the race: Wil Russell. Russell has challenged councilman Greg Phipps several times in recent years, and has come within only a handful of votes of winning the Democratic primary. However, Russel told Longleaf Politics that he is definitely out of the 2019 race.

This article will be updated as we report out more information. Got a tip? Email andrew@longleafpolitics.com.

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