Patrick Cannon talks political comeback in Charlotte after release from federal prison

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For the first time since being released from federal prison, Charlotte’s former mayor Patrick Cannon sat down with Channel 9′s Joe Bruno Wednesday.

No question was off limits as he attempts to return to the Charlotte political scene.

Cannon was arrested on bribery charges in 2014, accused of accepting more than $50,000 in bribes. Some were from undercover FBI agents, posing as business men. He pleaded guilty to a charge of honest services wire fraud and was given a 44-month sentence.

Now, Cannon is attempting a comeback. At one time, he was the youngest person to be elected to city council.

Cannon is one of six candidates seeking an at-large seat in the Democratic primary. The top four candidates will move on.

In a 45-minute interview, Bruno discussed his arrest, prison experience and decision to run for the at-large seat.

He described himself as a changed and humbled man eager to return to public service, with big goals like bringing back the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament (CIAA) and increasing public safety. But before any of that can be accomplished, he will have to convince voters he’s worthy of another shot.

“Being able to make sure I am able to represent myself in a way I am more conscious about me, knowing what I will do and not do. The second thing is going forward, if I am in a meeting with someone, I am not in a meeting alone. A staffer or someone else but I don’t look to have a meeting in a silo,” Cannon said.

Bruno also asked Cannon why is running.

“I’m reengaging, largely in part because I love my city. I’m a native Charlottean. And I’ve served half my life in public office, doing what I think should be the right thing to do for the citizens that reside here,” he responded. “To make sure people understand that I’m asking for their forgiveness for my transgressions.”

Cannon said he was encouraged to run by several community leaders. He mentioned NAACP Head Corine Mack and Rev. Dwayne Walker.

“The only way to determine if what I am saying is true, is to give me a second chance,” Cannon said.

“During sentencing, you said in the courtroom that you resigned the day you were charged to let the business of Charlotte operate without a gray cloud over it. If you win, does that gray cloud return?” Bruno asked.

“No, it doesn’t return. And it doesn’t return largely in part because of what I’ve experienced in the past. You To learn from your mistakes, I’ve learned from my mistake. And to date, I am just saying, look. Let’s look at what the issues are today. Let’s concentrate on being able to move our city forward in a way that benefits everyone that resides in it,” Cannon responded.

>> Watch “The Political Beat” on Channel 9 Sunday at 11:30 a.m. for more of Bruno’s interview with Cannon and what we know about the other candidates.

‘I wasn’t thinking’: Cannon discusses his arrest and what he took away from time in prison

Nearly 8 years ago, Cannon was convicted of corruption and took on the role of a federal inmate for taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.

“I wasn’t thinking, obviously, there was no rhyme or any reason,” he told Bruno. “To date, all I know to do at this point is to be able to be genuine and honest about where I am and what I am able to do to move Charlotte forward.”

“Were you blinded by ambition? Were you overwhelmed by the office? Why did you engage in this behavior?” Bruno asked.

“Well, it was just something that’s not anything that I’ve ever done before. And I can’t tell you any real reason why something like that took place. Because really, that’s not who Patrick Cannon happens to be. He made a mistake then. And I’m very sorry for that mistake. And want to continue to strive to do what I can to right that wrong,” Cannon responded.

In a video from the FBI, Cannon could be seen placing money near his ear and fanning the bills inside a bugged apartment in Southpark.

Bruno asked Cannon if he had seen the video, and he commented about not looking good in orange. Cannon said he has never watched it.

“Had no interest. I mean, who wants to be reminded about something that they’re not proud of?” he said. “Some things you have to put blinders on. Some things you don’t.”

“Are you expecting the public to put the blinders on?” Bruno asked.

“No, no. I think you know, something. In-as-much as what happened was wrong, and I would never condone it, there’s something to be gained, in the way of a good that can come out of this,” Cannon said. “Being able to know and reckon with the number of other people that have made mistakes, and have reentered our society, and what they need in a way of someone that will step out and still try to step up, in light of, in spite of what’s taking place in the past. I hope this might inspire them.”

Mayor Vi Lyles statement:

“There are a number of at-large city council candidates. As long as the qualifications to run for office are met, they have a right to seek votes from the residents of Charlotte.”

(WATCH BELOW: Patrick Cannon files for Charlotte city council after serving time in prison for accepting bribes)

Looking ahead, what can Charlotte expect from Cannon?

As Cannon works to move forward, Bruno talked in-depth abut his run for city council and what Charlotte can expect from him.

“You’ve been out of the political game for a while, There’s been no shortage of issues, so I want to ask you your position on some of the hot button issues,” Bruno asked. “There’s no shortage of things that you will have to face if you are elected. I think the one on the top of people’s minds right now is whether the sales tax should be increased by a penny to fund transit expansion, light rail streetcar, more efficient bus routes. Are you in favor of a sales tax increase for transit?

“I’m in favor of looking at what the right options may be financing options. Hear me when I say that right?” Cannon responded.

“You’re a former mayor, how do you think Mayor Lyles is doing?” Bruno asked.

“You know, every mayor operates differently. And the way she’s performing right now, I have no quarrels about. I think she’s doing the best you can with what she has to work with, and will continue to do, so I think the community has the final say and all of that, In terms of what they feel about the mayor. Me, if I’m reelected, all I want to be able to do is to be able to work in concert with whomever is the mayor, and do again, what’s going to be most pleasing for our community,” Cannon said.

Bruno asked him about topics ranging from the streetcar project, Charlotte’s 2040 plan, David Tepper and a new stadium, the CIAA and more.

“This is the most stacked Democratic primary we have had in years. Larken Egleston, Dimple Ajmera, Braxton Winston all running for at-large; they currently sit on the council. You have former members LaWana Mayfield, James “Smuggie” Mitchell, looking for a return to the dais. Then we have you, you get four votes as an at-large representative in a Democratic primary. Why should you be one of the four?” Bruno asked.

“Just go back and take a look at what we’ve all done across the board and render your decision or who you feel will best serve you based upon the things they’ve done in the areas like public safety, economic development, the environment, housing, what have you. Those are going to be the things that I think that people should weigh before rendering a decision,” Cannon responded.

>> In the videos below, watch more of Bruno’s interview with Cannon and what Charlotte can expect from him.