19 years after leaving office, former school board chair wins Mecklenburg commissioners nod

·2 min read

Democratic incumbents Pat Cotham and Leigh Altman along with former school board chairman Arthur Griffin appeared headed toward victory Tuesday night in the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners at-large primary.

With early votes and 99% of precincts counted, Cotham was the leading vote-getter by a significant margin. Griffin followed. Altman was close behind. Yvette Townsend-Ingram, a self-employed education and political consultant, was in fourth, followed by school board member Jennifer De La Jara and Trina Boyd, a small business owner.

Mecklenburg County commissioner Pat Cotham
Mecklenburg County commissioner Pat Cotham

The top three vote-getters win Democratic nominations and will face Republican Tatyana Thulien in November.

LIVE ELECTION RESULTS: Follow along here

In addition to the at-large race, there was a Democratic primary in District 2 and a Republican primary in District 6.

In District 2, incumbent Democrat Vilma Leake, seeking an eighth term, beat Angela White Edwards, 79% to 21%. In District 6, Republicans Desiree Zapata Miller and Jeremy Brasch were locked in a tight race. Leake faces no Republican opposition in the fall, so she appeared headed toward winning the seat Tuesday. The District 6 winner will face Democratic incumbent Susan Rodriguez-McDowell in November.

De La Jara, a Democrat, headed into election day as the leading fundraiser. She pulled in about $94,000 during the election season. Altman was the next-leading fundraiser, with nearly $75,000.

Cotham, who received more than 10,000 votes more than her nearest competitor, reported pulling in about $10,600 this election cycle.

On election night, Cotham said she wasn’t following the results. She spent her evening handing out food to the homeless in uptown — a tradition she began nearly a decade ago.

“To get that 1-on-1 interaction is very valuable for a county commission,” she said. “You can talk about homelessness, but when you’re talking to the man and he’s telling me what happened to him — and he had covid and he lost his job — it’s very authentic and it’s very real, and it stays with you.”

Talking about her successful campaign strategy, Cotham said she listens to voters and is present in the community.

“That’s worked for me over the years,” she said. “I’ll just keep doing that.”

FOLLOW THE MONEY: How much county candidates are getting, and who's giving

Griffin served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board starting in 1988 and chaired it from 1997 to 2002. He received support from multiple other county commissioners. Leake, Cotham and chairman George Dunlap all donated to his campaign.

Cotham is currently serving her fifth term. Altman is serving her first.

Other incumbents — Elaine Powell in District 1, George Dunlap in District 3, Mark Jerrell in District 4, Laura Meier in District 5 and Rodriguez-McDowell in District 6 — didn’t have primary competitors.

Every candidate other than Leake will face a Republican competitor in November.

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