When voters go to the polls to decide on a slate of candidates for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, there will be lots of names to consider.
Some said it's a person who is not running who's driving much of the debate.
“I think this is a referendum on the Nick Mackey issue, absolutely,” said Commissioner Norman Mitchell.
Mitchell is the 10-year incumbent in west Charlotte's District 2. He has never faced serious opposition.
Mitchell didn't support Mackey, the black attorney who lost a controversial bid to become Mecklenburg County's sheriff late last year.
For months, disagreements about Mackey’s character and qualifications led to a deep divide among blacks and whites and also among blacks themselves -- a divide so deep that some black leaders promised retribution at the polls to those commissioners who voted against Mackey.
“We were told if we did not support Nick Mackey, ‘We will have someone to run against you in the upcoming election.’ And if I had to take that same vote today, I would take the same vote (against Mackey),” Mitchell said.
School board member Vilma Leake stood with Mackey during his run for sheriff. She's now running to unseat longtime friend Mitchell in District 2, but she insists it's not because of Mackey.
“It's not about Mr. Mackey. Mr. Mackey's issue is over. We have a sheriff. I respect the gentleman and I respect Mr. Mitchell, but I feel that I'm the better candidate to serve our people,” she said.
Leake has bought billboard ads, and she said she has a grassroots committee of over 100 volunteers.
Mitchell touts his positions supporting veterans and elderly causes.
How much the Mackey issue still hangs over the county commission race is unclear. Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts is one of five Democrats running for three at-large seats and her leadership during the sheriff's process also angered a segment of the black community, but she said she sees less evidence it will still be a factor on Election Day.
“I'm not hearing as much about it. In fact, I have a lot of people who come up to me and say, ‘I was behind you all the way,’” she said.
For all of those running for county commission, the biggest challenge may be being heard at all as the voices of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue dominating headlines and airwaves.
In all, there are 19 men and women running for nine county commission seats. Three incumbents, Valerie Woodard, Dumont Clark and Bill James, are running unopposed.