Who would have thought Davidson would end up being this year's ground zero for "most interesting elections to watch" in North Mecklenburg, but that's exactly how things are shaping up after the close of the filing period last Friday.
Both Huntersville and Cornelius have uncontested races for Mayor. Mayor John Aneralla is seeking re-election in Huntersville. In Cornelius, current Commissioner Woody Washam is unopposed seeking the Mayor's spot since current current Mayor Chuck Travis decided to not try for another term. All of the remaining incumbent Commissioners in both towns filed for re-election except for Commissioner Rob Kidwell in Huntersville. That means each of those boards are guaranteed one new face, but to get more an incumbent has to lose. That's always a hard thing to do.
In Davidson, things couldn't be more different this time around.
Three candidates are vying for Mayor (John Woods, Rusty Knox, and Laurie Venzon). This will definitely be Mayor Woods's biggest electoral challenge since becoming Mayor a decade ago.
Both Knox and Venzon are well known names in Davidson politics. Rusty Knox comes from local political family, and he is well known in his own right as a musician. Importantly, in recent years he has been leading the charge against many of Town Hall's most unpopular ambitions. Venzon served previously as Mayor Pro Tem on the Board and is familiar with how Town Hall operates. Between the two of them, the challenger best able to coalesce the "Not John Woods" vote and eat into Wood's loyal base, stands to take this contest. However, if that doesn't happen, in a three way race Woods could squeak by with likely less than 50% of the total vote.
On the Commissioners side, things are no less chaotic. This race has turned into a major contest with thirteen candidates filing for five spots. Typically, such a large number of candidates is due to some known open seats going into filing. Open seats where an incumbent doesn't file for re-election attract candidates because of the possibility of getting a seat without having to knock off a sitting Commissioner. Going into the filing period that wasn't the case in Davidson. All of the incumbents were mum on their intentions, so many assumed all would file for re-election. Ultimately, though two incumbents did not file - Mayor Pro Tem Beth Cashion and Commissioner Brian Jenest. While there were rumors out there that these two might not file they were never confirmed, and ultimately having two Commissioners not file was a surprise to many.
So what caused the large number of challengers if it wasn't known open seats? Issues and controversy, that's what.
It looks like a long simmering discontent with Town Hall finally boiled over and that spurred the large number of candidates with only a few of the challengers being well known names. Incumbents Jim Fuller, Rodney Graham, and Stacey Anderson filed for re-election, but they are outnumbered by 10 challengers. Due to controversies over the past two years that have emanated from Town Hall like the Catalyst Project, the Rural Area Plan mass rezoning, and most recently the Beaty Street RFP, any incumbent is probably at risk with Graham and Anderson more so this time due to their recent Beaty Street vote. Of the three, Jim Fuller is probably in the safest position because he has been on the right side of these contentious issues much more often than not.
The dynamics of this race will be interesting. With the real possibility of a 4-5 new faces on the Board and so many candidates to choose from, voters will have their work cut out for them. If a solid slate of candidates comes together to challenge the remaining incumbents, or four challengers plus maybe Fuller, that could leave the remaining incumbents and challengers to resort to single shot voting to have a chance at getting on the new board.
aShortChronicle had previously told readers in this post from 2015 that single shot voting was a way to super charge your vote and help break the grip of incumbents. This time around those incumbents may be the ones who need to use it.