Republicans ousted as 'Blue Wave' sweeps across Meck County Commission

Republicans ousted as 'Blue Wave' sweeps across Meck County Commission

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County Commission met Wednesday night, 24 hours after a massive shake-up during the midterm election saw long-term Republicans ousted from their positions.

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When the new members are sworn in, the entire commission will be made up of Democrats for the first time since the 60s.

The “Blue Wave” in Mecklenburg County swept all three Republicans out of their seats.

<p>James, Puckett, and Ridenhour</p>

James, Puckett, and Ridenhour

(Bill James, Jim Puckett, and Matthew Ridenhour)

In District 1, Democrat Elaine Powell received 7,000 more votes than Republican incumbent Jim Puckett.

In District 5, Democrat Susan Harden beat out Republican commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who was serving his third term.

And the biggest shock was in District 6, where 11-term Republican commissioner Bill James lost his seat to Democratic challenger Susan McDowell.

There weren't any major surprises in the at-large race. Pat Cotham, Trevor Fuller and Ella Scarborough all held off Republican Jeremy Brasch.

Commissioner Cotham once again got the most votes and said she hopes the new faces will lead to a more unified board.

"Work together, discuss things, that would be a change for me," said Cotham.

With the commission now completely made up of Democrats, the county could shift how it handles several key issues.

The new commissioners will face new and old challenges next year.

Revaluation is in 2019 and property values for many homeowners are expected to soar. The new commissioners will be in charge of setting the tax rate, ultimately deciding whether people will pay more, less or the same.

Commissioners will have to decide whether to fully fund CMS'  future budget request. Past boards have typically not provided CMS with their fully requested amount.

The county has also hinted at potential property tax hikes to fund universal pre-K.

The prior board rolled out universal pre-K slowly with a minimal tax hike. It will be up to the new commissioners whether to continue to fund the effort and raise taxes to offer it to more children.

McDowell, a fiscally conservative democrat, told Channel 9 that residents shouldn't be concerned about how the new board will approach revaluations.

"Nobody wants to see people having these huge tax bills and huge tax increases," said McDowell.

Joining the three women as a new commissioner next year is Mark Jerrell. He's the first African-American to be elected to represent the 4th District.

He said like city council, people should know Mecklenburg County Commission is not going to be business as usual.

"People are expecting fresh perspectives and new approaches," he said.

Cotham told Channel 9 political reporter Joe Bruno that even though there are no Republicans on the board, it up is her and other at-large representatives to reach out to them and make sure their perspectives are included when making decisions.

With the three Republicans ousted, Ella Scarborough’s county chair position is in jeopardy because the republicans helped put her in the seat. Trevor Fuller is expected to make a run for the county's top position.

Channel 9 contacted each of the ousted Republicans.

Jim Puckett and Bill James did not respond. Matthew Ridenhour said he wishes his opponent well and said it was an honor to serve.

Bonds overwhelmingly pass

All three bonds on the ballot passed Tuesday night.

The $118 million transportation bond will fund road improvements, bike paths, and greenways.

The $55 million neighborhood improvement bonds will help connect busy neighborhoods with job and shopping centers.

The city said the $50 million affordable housing bond will help them negotiate more affordable housing units with developers.

The bonds were popular with voters, passing with an overwhelming majority of nearly 580,000 votes.

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