Voters in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina headed to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in 24 local primary races, including primaries for two U.S. House seats, Charlotte mayor and City Council, county commission, sheriff and district attorney.
When it was all over, one of the state’s most established political figures was contemplating his future after being roundly defeated by his Donald Trump-backed challenger.
McCrory will take a week to decide what’s next
Former Gov. Pat McCrory told supporters Tuesday at Selwyn Avenue Pub he hasn’t decided what’s next professionally or politically following his U.S. Senate loss to Ted Budd.
McCrory said he’d head down to “Lake Jimmy” for a rest next week, then decide how to handle the rest of the election. Plan Bs are for uncommitted candidates, he said. But whether it’s private sector work or a different political role, McCrory says he’ll keep working for North Carolinians.
”Life is a full circle,” he told supporters.
He started his political career just a few blocks from the Selwyn Pub on the Charlotte City Council, and he’ll close this chapter disappointed in the results, but never in his choice to run.
He told event attendees they were “commonsense Republicans” and that his first inkling of a loss came when Trump endorsed Budd.
“We’ve got to do an evaluation in this party,” McCrory told the audience, which cheered when he described them as “commonsense Republicans.”
McCrory encouraged the audience to keep up its political action so the GOP is forced to consider moderate views.
As for endorsing Budd in the general election, McCrory insists it’s not an issue of whether he wants to support a former competitor, but of whether the other campaign moves to repair ties.
”I’ll be asking them if they want me,” McCrory said.
The former Charlotte mayor said he hopes that the GOP will reconsider the tone of its candidates, and that politicians will begin paying more attention to issues and less to endorsements.”I look forward to my supporters being reached out to,” he said.
— Sara Coello
Mecklenburg elections website down
9:45 p.m. County officials reported a problem with the county Board of Elections website late Tuesday. What caused the site outage is unclear. Officials did not indicate any issue with the counting of votes. Election results statewide remained available via the N.C. Board of Elections website.
— Kallie Cox
U.S. Senate primaries called for Budd, Beasley
8 p.m.: An endorsement by former President Donald Trump and $11 million from a conservative political interest group proved just the ticket for U.S. Rep. Ted Budd to win Tuesday the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Budd, 50, defeated former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker and 11 other Republicans, The Associated Press projected.
Budd will face former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in the general election held on Nov. 8. The AP projected that Beasley, 55, won the Democratic nomination for Senate, becoming the first Black woman to do so in North Carolina.
Pub and campaign staff, who outnumbered guests by the top of the hour, draped an American flag over the bar’s flatscreen TV to carve out a space for Pat McCrory. The former Charlotte mayor and North Carolina governor hadn’t yet stepped behind his podium.
McCrory’s sister, Linda Sebastian, said the large gap in early results came as a shock.
“I think the voters have made a clear mistake,” Sebastian said.
McCrory told supporters, “I know the game, I’ve played the game, and I’ve been played by the game.”
Read more about the U.S. Senate race: Rep. Ted Budd, former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley win NC’s Senate primaries
— Sara Coello
Polls closed, results to come
7:30 p.m.: Polls in North Carolina closed at 7:30 p.m. Anyone in line when polls closed is allowed to vote.
Follow live results for local, regional and statewide races here: Live election results: Who won seats in Charlotte-area, NC primaries?
Candidates settling in
7 p.m.: With voting winding down, candidates vying for their party’s nomination in the 12th and 14th congressional districts were settling in to find out their fates.
After candidates spent the day visiting precincts and courting last-minute voters, Republican Pat Harrigan and Democratic Rep. Alma Adams told media they would spend the evening with supporters and staff at watch parties.
Others, including Republican Jonathan Simpson and Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson, told the Observer they were opting to watch the results roll in alongside friends and family in private.
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. Anyone in line when polls close is allowed to vote.
— Mary Ramsey
5 p.m.: Outside the Mint Hill Town Hall in Precinct 219, campaign volunteers handed out sample Republican and Democratic ballots to the handful of voters shuffling in and out the building’s front doors.
Those voters included Jennell Crump, a 65-year-old who works in insurance in Charlotte. She was particularly invested in the race for district attorney — social justice causes are near and dear to her heart, she said.
“All (kinds of) elections matter. That’s what affects our day to day,” she said of what brought her out to vote. “So it’s really important to vote for people that will represent you.”
Andrew Ziolo of Pineville was among the volunteers campaigning for Democratic state House candidate Tricia Cotham.
Ziolo’s a lifelong Charlottean who’s been involved in local politics since he was a teenager, he said — including an internship with Cotham’s previous N.C. House campaign when he was 16. “It’s so important.”
The 31-year-old has been out campaigning for Cotham at early voting sites four or five times already. He’s stood in the rain before, he said, so baking in Tuesday’s 84-degree sun while he handed out wasn’t so bad.
Ziolo said he’d like to see increased voter turnout in the area. Even with this election’s record early voting numbers, estimates predict only a small fraction of registered voters will cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary, he said.
“If you think you vote doesn’t matter, it does,” Ziolo said. “But it’s hard to get someone to see that.”
Turnout at the town hall hadn’t been great that afternoon, he said. Ziolo and the other volunteers hoped it might pick up around 5 p.m., after folks got off work.
But further north at J.H. Gunn Elementary School, Vinroy Reid, a Democratic candidate for the District 5 seat on Charlotte City Council, said hundreds of voters had shown up since he arrived, to his surprise. He went to the school around 2 p.m., after an earlier stop at Albemarle Road Recreation Center.
He saw lines of voters about 20 people deep, he told the Observer via phone. “It’s exciting,” he said.
— Hannah Lang
A ‘process’ that brings people together
3:46 p.m.: Charlie Currence said voter turnout at West Charlotte Community Center was “lukewarm” throughout the morning and afternoon: About 65 to 70 people had voted at Precinct 25 by 2 p.m., the 64-year-old campaign volunteer said.
“For a primary, I think it’s pretty good,” said Currence, who was stumping for Democratic City Council candidate James “Smuggie” Mitchell.
Currence said he’s spent the past two weeks helping other community members cast their early ballots at Eastway Regional Recreation Center.
“Voting is one of those things that we talk a lot about, but I don’t think some people see the importance of it,” he said. “You probably won’t see an overnight change. Voting is a process.”
People need to get more involved and try to educate others about voting, Currence said. Although the voting process has some systematic flaws, he said, it brings people together.
“There’s going to be some negativity around it, but we’re sharing ideas and thoughts,” he said.
Ronald McIlwain, a campaigner for Charlene Henderson, a Democratic candidate for a City Council at-large seat, said voting “is the franchise.”
“This is the one freedom we have when you’re talking about civilian government,” McIlwain told the Observer while at Druid Hills Academy around 2:30 p.m.
It’s especially important for Black people to vote right now, because a campaign exists to restrict the Black vote, he said.
“Come out now and vote in local elections,” McIlwain said. “Things that affect me every day start on this level. The people who are on the City Council make decisions about my day-to-day life.”
— Jonathan Limehouse
’It all starts at the bottom’
2:20 p.m.: It was quiet outside the voting precinct at Albemarle Road Recreation Center, as only a few voters trickled in and out around lunchtime.
City Council candidate Vinroy Reid waited outside, greeting voters and passing out campaign flyers. He said Tuesday’s primaries were important for voters who wanted a local leader both from and for their community.
“It’s the main ingredient for local policy,” he said of the elections. “It’s the foundation and the footing … What you do working for your community, your district, that becomes the catalyst for other districts, and then the whole city, and then everything else.”
Aloha and Irving Torrents cast ballots around noon. They always make a point to vote in elections big and small, the pair said.
“I think that I would feel guilty if I didn’t take advantage of the privilege of voting,” 80-year-old Aloha Torrents said.
“It’s for a better future for everyone,” her husband added.
Walter Grahling also visited around lunchtime. The 89-year-old Ohio transplant has voted in nearly every election since 1956, he said, and has no plans of stopping now. It helps that the site is only a few minutes from his home in east Charlotte.
Nancy Massey stopped by the rec center wearing her “I voted” sticker after casting her ballot earlier in her precinct off Sugar Creek Road. Massey, 69, was particularly passionate about the race for county sheriff, though she declined to name the candidate she voted for. She worked for the Mecklenburg County jail for nearly two decades before retiring a few years ago, Massey said.
She said she turns out for local elections so she can start creating the change she wants to see “right here, at this level.”
“It’s just as important as the national (election),” she said. “It all starts at the bottom.”
— Hannah Lang
Voting is the ‘people’s voice’
11:56 a.m.: “God bless America,” 56-year-old Bert Baloga said after voting at South Park Christian Church. “It’s just a good right to vote.”
Poll workers at Precinct 75 told him he was the 138th voter of the day, Baloga said. He voted around 11 a.m.
“This reminds me of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when there were huge turnouts,” he said. “For a while there, nobody voted.”
Voting is the “people’s voice,” because it helps change what taxpayers pay for and what’s happening in the world, Baloga said.
Shirley Burns, 84, said voting at South Park Christian Church was a lot easier than when she was a precinct worker in the Lansdowne area 20 years ago.
“These machines are so much better than what I ever worked with,” Burns said after leaving the polling site around 11 a.m.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, she said, counting votes during presidential elections would take until midnight.
“That was many many years ago, but you actually had to sit down and tally every vote,” she said. “There were no electric machines.”
People can’t criticize how things are going if they don’t vote, Burns added.
“I think it’s your (civic right) and duty as a citizen to vote,” she said.
— Jonathan Limehouse
Candidate reports mixed turnout
10:15 a.m.: Kyle Luebke, a Republican candidate for a Charlotte City Council at-large seat, said he had visited various precincts since 6:15 a.m.
Some had a slower turnout, such as Alexander Graham Middle School in south Charlotte, while others were either steady or busy, Luebke said.
Most voters, however, likely won’t go to the polls until they get off from work, Luebke told the Observer outside Precinct 48 at Providence United Methodist Church.
Voter Suzanne Carson expected a smaller voter turnout at the church. A poll worker told her she got there during “rush hour,” Carson said.
“Previous times when I’ve voted here, there haven’t nearly been this many people,” the 52-year-old Carson said.
She went to vote around 9:30 a.m. because she wants to be a part of “making things better again.”
“We’ve gone down a bad path, in my opinion, in the last eight to 10 years,” she said.
Voting forces people to become better informed and to consider how decisions impact their and other peoples’ lives, Carson said.
“That kind of re-engagement ... I think brings people back to getting in touch with why it’s so important to vote,” she said.
— Jonathan Limehouse
’Very important election’
7:30 a.m.: Bruce Hogan, 59, went to vote at Third Presbyterian Church in east Charlotte because “no one election is less important.”
“The issues change slightly, but the election itself is very important,” he said.
Hogan arrived at Precinct 5 around 7:30 a.m., and there wasn’t much of a line at the Central Avenue church.
No lines had formed at other precincts, including Druid Hill and Charlotte Mecklenburg Virtual High School.
Hogan said this election is pivotal because members of a particular party want to “roll back” time by making it tougher and more restrictive for certain segments of the population to vote.
“A democracy is established on the belief that one person equals one vote, and if all can’t vote, then there is no true democracy,” Hogan said.
He said the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court leak is an example of why it’s important to vote.
“I may not agree with abortion, but I totally believe that a woman should have a right to make a decision in conjunction with her doctors,” Hogan said.
“If you haven’t cast your vote before today, or if you think we have tomorrow, it’s too late,” Hogan said. “If you’re not aware of what’s going on, you really need to pay attention.”