NC Sen. Dan Clodfelter appears to have votes for Charlotte mayor

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comApril 6, 2014 

With hours to go before the vote, State Sen. Dan Clodfelter appeared to be the favorite to be named Charlotte’s next mayor.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday to make a selection.

It’s unclear what the final vote Monday will be. But council members on both sides of the debate – those who support Clodfelter and those who support James “Smuggie” Mitchell – said Sunday night it appears Clodfelter has at least six votes on the 11-member council.

Clodfelter, a former council member who has served in the General Assembly since 1999, would replace Democrat Patrick Cannon, who resigned March 26 after being arrested on federal corruption charges.

Council members have been deadlocked for more than a week on who should be the city’s next mayor.

Some council members were lobbying for Mitchell, a former council member who challenged Cannon last fall in the Democratic mayoral primary.

Mitchell’s support stemmed in part from his willingness to challenge Cannon, whom some Democrats felt wouldn’t be a good leader. Clodfelter reportedly considered running but decided against it.

“He’s a deliberate man. He’s a very intelligent man,” said at-large council member Claire Fallon, who said she will vote for Clodfelter. “I hope he’s above reproach. He’s savvy about what goes on up in Raleigh.”

Clodfelter, 63, is a Davidson College graduate who went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. He served on the City Council in the late 1980s and was elected to the Senate in 1998.

When the Senate was controlled by Democrats, Clodfelter became chairman of the influential Finance Committee. He specialized in complicated issues, particularly those involving taxes and finance.

He rose as high as fourth in effectiveness, according to regular surveys by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. Even in the 2011 session, the first under Republican control, he was ranked 14th out of 50 senators.

Last year, Clodfelter worked alongside Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord on an alternative to the Republican-led tax reform effort.

When it comes to the Monday night vote, Republican Ed Driggs said he was confident that the council could make a decision. He supports Clodfelter.

Driggs said he is concerned about Mitchell after the Observer published a story last week about Greenville, S.C.-based CertusBank, which has been losing money. Shareholders of the bank have questioned the bank’s expenses, including payments made to Integrated Capital Strategies, a consulting firm owned by bank executives and managed in part by Mitchell.

Driggs said after what happened with Cannon – who is accused of taking $48,000 in bribes – the city needs someone without any questions on their record. “I like (Clodfelter’s) career,” Driggs said.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, whose name had been floated by some, said Thursday he was essentially pulling his name out. He said he would serve if no one else could get six votes, but he didn’t think that would happen.

For the last week, the council has been split into two groups. There are four council members who often vote together as a block: John Autry, LaWana Mayfield, Patsy Kinsey and David Howard.

Mayfield has said she would like to see Mitchell get the job, in part because he challenged Cannon in the mayoral primary last fall.

Al Austin was elected to Mitchell’s City Council district seat in November. Mitchell is currently running for the 12th Congressional seat, but he could also choose to challenge Austin in an effort to retake his old seat in 2015. If Mitchell were mayor, that would likely remove the possibility Mitchell would challenge Austin.

On the other side are Fallon, Barnes, Driggs, Greg Phipps and Kenny Smith. They have either said they support Clodfelter or are believed to be in his corner.

At-large council member Vi Lyles declined to say Sunday how she would vote.

There are only three requirements for the job. The person must be 21 years old, a Democrat and a resident of the city. The term runs through December 2015.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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