CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The woman who is second in command to the mayor of North Carolina’s largest city is now poised to replace her after capturing a primary victory on Tuesday.
Charlotte Mayor Pro Tempore Vi Lyles defeated incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts in the Democratic primary, capturing 46 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Roberts. State Sen. Joel Ford was third with nearly 16 percent of the vote.
“I’m pretty stoked actually,” Lyles told reporters as early election returns showed her taking a lead she never lost throughout the night.
Lyles, who campaigned on a platform for better jobs, more affordable housing and infrastructure, said no one issue will supersede the other if she wins the office.
“I don’t believe any one thing is a focus,” Lyles said. “What we need to do is figure out how to knit all of that together and take action in what we have.”
Roberts, who conceded the race to Lyles, was plagued by controversy throughout her term. She led efforts in February 2016 to get the city council to pass a measure that expanded public accommodation protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The Republican-controlled Legislature responded with a state law canceling Charlotte’s ordinance and requiring transgender people statewide to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.
Ultimately, the city council repealed its ordinance in hopes of brokering a compromise that initially fell apart. A partial repeal of HB2 in March still prevented Charlotte from passing expanded LGBT protections again until the end of 2020.
“Discrimination is real. It’s still there in a lot of different ways,” Roberts told WCCB-TV in Charlotte. “I’m going to continue to stand up against that.”
Lyles will face City Councilman Kenny Smith, a runaway winner in the Republican primary. Smith took 88 percent of the vote, easily turning back two challengers. North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said the results showed Charlotte is “ready for a new direction,” but he suggested it’s not the one Lyles is heading in.
“As Mayor Pro Tem, Vi Lyles has been at Mayor Roberts’ side as they worked together to pursue a failed and divisive agenda. Their unsuccessful leadership has cost Charlotte countless jobs and opportunities while violent crime continues to rise,” Hayes said in a statement. “Kenny Smith will bring much needed change to the city with his plan for more jobs, better wages, safer streets, and smarter infrastructure.”
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7.