Three ‘blue ballot’ candidates lead in early voting for CMS board seats
The three candidates endorsed by Mecklenburg County’s Democratic party — incumbent Lenora Shipp, third-time candidate Monty Witherspoon and newcomer Liz Monterrey — hold the top three spots among early voters.
Almost 41,000 voters, or just over 5% of registered voters, cast early ballots. Polls closed at 7:30 p.m.
Fourteen people are on the ballot, and the top three will win four-year terms as at-large representatives.
The race will round out a new leadership team that began forming with last year’s district election, which brought five newcomers into the six board seats. That group then hired Superintendent Crystal Hill this summer.
Shipp, seeking her second term, holds the top spot among early voters with 17.47% of the votes, followed by Witherspoon with 14.75% and Monterrey with 13.74%.
Shamaiye Haynes is in fourth place with 10.66%, and the rest are under 10% with early voters. Each voter can select up to three candidates, which tends to make percentages look low.
For instance, even if all voters chose the same three candidates, each of them would have only 33.3% of the total. In the last CMS at-large race in 2019, the top three had between 11% and 13% of the total.
And the margin of victory can be small in races with a long ballot. In 2019, the difference between third place (28,611 votes) and fourth place (28,416), was 195 votes, or less than 1%.
If elected, Shipp will be one of only two board members with more than one year’s experience. She was first elected in 2019. She chairs the board’s Policy Committee and served on the search team that hired Hill as superintendent.
Witherspoon is a minister and the father of two young children. He ran unsuccessfully for an at-large seat in 2019 and for the District 2 seat last year.
Monterrey, who came to Charlotte in 2020, has a preschool-age child and is making her first run for office. She’s the daughter of Cuban immigrants. If elected, she’ll be the first Hispanic school board member in a district where about 30% of students are Latino.
The race is nonpartisan, but the local Democrats decided to break with tradition and endorse only three candidates in hopes of making them stand out in the large field of candidates. Haynes, also a Democrat, did not get the party’s endorsement but did get a nod from the party’s African American Caucus, the Black Political Caucus and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators.