Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles wins Democratic primary by wide margin

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles easily won Tuesday’s Democratic primary, all but guaranteeing that she’ll become the city’s first mayor in nearly a decade to win a second term.

Lyles, who had 87% of the vote, would be the first mayor to win a second term since Democrat Anthony Foxx in 2011. She also would bring a measure of stability to an office that had seen six mayors in four years.

Lyles, 67, led four Democrats: Roderick Davis, Tigress McDaniel, Joel Odom and Lucille Puckett. She will face Republican David Michael Rice, a perennial candidate, in November.

Lyles touted her accomplishments on affordable housing and jobs while acknowledging the city needs to do more on public safety and transportation.

The city recently exceeded its goal of $50 million in private funds for affordable housing, matching the same amount in public money from a 2018 bond issue. Meanwhile, Honeywell, a Fortune 100 company, has moved its corporate headquarters to Charlotte from New Jersey. And Lowe’s plans to bring 2,000 jobs to a new global tech hub in South End.

Lyles has pledged to work on transportation initiatives including “rebuilding” the bus system and finding money to expand light rail. She said she also wants to improve public safety in a city that already has seen more homicides than it did all of last year.

“I wish I could wave a magic wand,” she told one forum.

Lyles championed the city’s selection as the site of next year’s Republican National Convention and faced criticism over that decision from some Democrats.

“When you sit in this chair, you have to remember you represent every person in the city,” she told a recent forum.

In July, in response to President Donald Trump’s tweets about four Democratic congresswomen and a rally in Greenville, Lyles said, “Charlotte is no place for racist or xenophobic hate speech, and we simply will not tolerate it.”

Lyles is leading a city that has become increasingly Democratic and where Republicans make up less than one in five registered city voters. But it’s the first time in nearly four decades that Republicans failed to mount a serious mayoral challenge.

“I just think she’s been a terrific mayor,” former Mayor Richard Vinroot, a Republican, said last month. “She’s just an admirable person in every way and a good representative of our city.”

Lyles spent three decades in city government, rising from budget analyst to budget director to assistant city manager. She went on to work for a non-profit and as a leadership consultant. She was elected to the first of two city council terms in 2013.

After beating incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts and a handful of other Democrats in the 2017 primary, she went on to win 59% of the vote against Republican Kenny Smith, who spent $650,000.

Rice, the Republican, has run for local office several times. When he ran for mayor in 2013, he had a cable-access TV ministry. He called his political committee “Ricetown Royal Republic.” Rice said at the time that his ultimate goal is to be mayor of a town that bears his name.

The Charlotte election, he said then, is “almost like having an election to elect a mayor of Ricetown.”