Originally published: April 7, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2014, 9:55 a.m.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — City Council voted 10-1 Monday evening to install state Sen. Dan Clodfelter as the city’s next mayor, following the resignation of former Mayor Patrick Cannon last week after his arrest on federal corruption and bribery charges.
Clodfelter, a Democrat, will serve the rest of Cannon’s term — nearly two years through December 2015. Clodfelter is a former member of Council, having served on the body in the late 1980s. He was elected to the Senate in 1998.
Clodfelter told local media he was overwhelmed by the Council’s decision to appoint him mayor. He also said he was ready to get to work and reassure public trust.
“This is Charlotte. Nothing has changed about Charlotte,” Clodfelter said. “I think the community response to this has been proof how much this community values integrity, truth and honesty in its local government.”
Clodfelter will resign his state Senate seat on Tuesday and be sworn in as mayor on Wednesday. When he officially becomes mayor, he’ll come onto Council as the city faces a variety of controversies — the fallout from Cannon’s arrest notwithstanding — including control of the airport, discussions on the city’s Capital Improvement Plan and development projects like the streetcar. Clodfelter said he’ll listen to Council members and the community to find common ground.
“The mayor’s job is to sort of be like an orchestra director,” he said. “The mayor doesn’t make the music. The Council does. The mayor’s job is to look at the score and try to help the Council find a common tune.”
Clodfelter friendly on LGBT issues
Clodfelter has had a fairly inclusive record on LGBT issues. In 2011, he voted against the proposal which ultimately put the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the ballot in May 2012. Clodfelter was also a co-sponsor of the 2009 School Violence Prevention Act, which mandated LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying protections in local school districts statewide.
Clodfelter also won the support of Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBT advocacy group which endorsed him in 2012.
“Sen. Clodfelter has led with integrity during his seven terms as a state senator in the anti-Amendment One Meck of the woods,” the group said in that year’s voter guide.
Mitchell considered, passed over
Council’s choice for mayor had been whittled down to two potential successors. Clodfelter had been widely considered the top contender before Monday’s meeting.
But, former City Councilmember James Mitchell had also been a leading option among some Council members. LaWana Mayfield, one of two gay representatives on Council, favored Mitchell.
On Monday evening, Councilmember David Howard motioned to nominate Mitchell for mayor, with Mayfield seconding. That motion was defeated when it gained support from only four members — Howard, Mayfield, John Autry and Al Austin. Council’s second openly gay member, Austin was elected to Mitchell’s former District 2 Council seat last fall.
Mayfield said during the meeting that she favored Mitchell because of his previous run for mayor as the second-highest vote getter in last year’s Democratic mayoral primary.
Clodfelter’s nomination was then approved by 10 Council members. Mayfield was the lone dissenter.
Mitchell had gained the late support of the LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, which announced Monday afternoon they favored Mitchell. The group based their decision on past interactions with Mitchell, who was endorsed by the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) when he ran against Cannon in last year’s mayoral primary. Cannon ultimately won the primary and went on to beat out Republican opponent Edwin Peacock in the November election.
In interviews with MeckPAC, Mitchell came out in favor of full legal equality for LGBT people, including on issues like employment and marriage.
“I am a supporter of civil rights for all Charlotteans and support[ed] adding sexual orientation to the city nondiscrimination policy,” Mitchell told MeckPAC. “I have supported, and will continue to support, same sex benefits for City of Charlotte employees, and work to end discrimination in housing and employment in our city. I believe that the office of Mayor will give me a platform where I can advocate for pro- Equality change in Charlotte and beyond, and I will stand up to the General Assembly in Raleigh which seeks to legislate discrimination in our state.”
Mitchell, with Mayfield, had also been a leading proponent of the city’s same-sex domestic partner benefits. They were adopted in the city’s budgeting process in 2012.
On Monday evening, LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County President Gary Leake said he was disappointed in the outcome but excited that Council still chose an LGBT-friendly leader.
“We support the new mayor and we look forward to working with him,” Leake said.