CHARLOTTE — Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles is making a rare endorsement in a Charlotte City Council primary. One political expert tells Channel 9 the endorsement is a “big deal.”
The three-term Charlotte mayor is backing Wil Russell in the Charlotte City Council District 4 Democratic primary. Russell is challenging incumbent Councilmember Renee Johnson. Olivia Scott is also running in the race.
District 4 is composed of the northeastern part of the city stretching from The Plaza to city limits. Interstate 85 largely runs through District 4.
“I think it speaks for itself, his experience in terms of the planning commission and his experience in affordable housing. We need more people at the dais with his expertise and knowledge,” Mayor Lyles told Eyewitness News Reporter Joe Bruno. “I believe that what is important is that we get more teamwork around our major priorities. With affordable housing, Wil has the expertise. He knows what makes it work for the community. He was on the planning commission with the UDO. That is going to be tweaked and his wisdom and knowledge of the details of that plan will serve us all better as a team.”
Wil Russell is a construction manager for Harmon Construction Services. Harmon Construction Services provides construction management services for Laurel Street, a Charlotte affordable housing provider.
Russell is a member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. He formed the Prosperity Village Area Association in 2015 and served on the Unified Development Advisory Committee.
“It is an honor to have someone like Mayor Vi Lyles come in and support my campaign,” Russell told Bruno. “It means a lot. We are working very hard to make sure we are successful.”
Political expert Douglas Wilson says the backing of Lyles is a big development in the District 4 race.
“The mayor’s endorsement in a primary race is a big deal and can tilt the vote towards her candidate,” he said. “The mayor’s endorsement of Mr. Russell is an indication of the type of city council team she believes can work with her to achieve the goals she has laid for the city.”
Councilmember Johnson tells Bruno it is “disappointing” to learn of the Mayor’s endorsement of her opponent. She says the two have worked together to pass a budget, the nondiscrimination ordinance and source of income discrimination protections. She also said all times she has challenged the mayor have been with her district in mind.
“There have been times that I’ve challenged the Mayor’s decisions, when I believe it is in the best interests of District 4 and the city, which is the Democratic way of leadership,” she told Bruno. “I strongly believe a city as large and diverse as Charlotte should be represented by diverse voices, and I am proud to be the voice that represents the diversity of District 4!”
Scott did not immediately comment on the endorsement.
In-person voting for the primary starts Aug. 24. The primary is on Sept. 12. No Republicans are running for the seat.
Statement from Councilmember Johnson:
“It is disappointing because I’ve served as her colleague since 2019, through the Pandemic, the most difficult time in our country’s history. Together, we have worked to achieve common goals to move our City forward in areas such as passing a $3.3 Billion budget, along with passing historic legislation such as the Non-Discrimination and Source of Income Discrimination Ordinances. I’ve been a consistent voice for responsible development, small businesses, vulnerable populations and anti-displacement in our historic neighborhoods, such as Hidden Valley and McCrorey Heights.
“There have been times that I’ve challenged the Mayor’s decisions, when I believe it is in the best interests of District 4 and the city, which is the Democratic way of leadership. I have concerns that my opponent stated that Council should “speak only in one voice”. I strongly believe a city as large and diverse as Charlotte should be represented by diverse voices, and I am proud to be the voice that represents the diversity of District 4!
“I trust the voters of District 4 to continue to fight for me as I have fought for them. I invite everyone to visit my website reelectrenee4clt.com for more information about my work and my campaign.”
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