by: Mark Barber Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Mecklenburg County voters head to the polls Tuesday and will make decisions on several crucial races, including who will become Charlotte's next mayor.
Charlotte will elect a new mayor to replace Jennifer Roberts. She lost the Democratic primary last month after becoming embroiled in a fight for LGBT rights. Two city council members, Democrat Vi Lyles and Republican Kenny Smith, are squaring off to replace her.
While Lyles battled with Roberts in an intense Democratic primary before winning, Smith's easy Republican primary victory helped him amass a campaign war chest that's put him on television often with advertising in the general campaign's final weeks. Smith's campaign reported having spent $538,000 as of late October, compared to $294,000 by Lyles, according to their campaign finance reports.
Smith's greatest challenge remains voter registration - Democrats outnumber Republicans in Charlotte by more than 2 to 1, although unaffiliated voters surpass Republicans and comprise 30 percent of the electorate. The Democratic National Committee announced this past week it was working with the state party to help get Lyles elected.
Voters will also vote on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ nearly $1 billion bond package.
Advocates for the school bond have a lot of money left to spend in order to get out the vote. Overnight, Channel 9 went through campaign finance reports and found how much money is being spent to win votes.
The advocacy group, “Vote Yes for School Bonds” has raised more than $370,000. Nearly $200,000 of that is cash that the group is using for last-minute advertising.
CMS officials said that approving the nearly $1 billion bond would allow them to build 10 new schools and seven replacement schools, as well as renovate or expand another dozen schools.
Below is a breakdown of the biggest supporters flooding the race with money:
- The North Carolina Association of Realtors contributed the most, with $30,000 in cash and another $25,000 for digital ads and fliers
- Bank of America and Duke Energy have each contributed $40,000
- Carolinas Healthcare System has donated $30,000
Not everyone wants the bond package to pass, though.
The towns of Huntersville and Cornelius, as well as the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, all oppose the bonds because they say it would not do enough to help their overcrowded schools.
Early voting ended Saturday, and Channel 9 found that 35,821 voters cast their ballots early. That's nearly double the early voting totals from the most recent mayoral election in 2015.
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