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Déjà vu at the polls 

Old faces seek new seats in Mecklenburg County

Last week, two familiar faces in Charlotte politics threw their hats into the race to become Mecklenburg County Commissioners.

Attorney Harold Cogdell, a former Charlotte City Council member, and current Mecklenburg County School Board member Velma Leake are running for seats on the board of commissioners. Cogdell is running at large and Leake is running for the District 2 seat currently held my Norman Mitchell. (Leake says that she's not running against Mr. Mitchell, she's running for the seat. "This is a democratic society and all seats are open to anyone.")

Are these campaigns backlash from the disputed sheriff's elections?

Both contenders say, "no."

"The [sheriff's election] is something that's behind us," says Velma Leake, who is running as a Democrat in the race.

Leake says her campaign is about change. And while she says that Mitchell is a good person, she wants to see visual changes in District 2.

"My focus is education, senior citizens and also parks and rec that can provide quality facilities for all. There's not a site in the west side, in District 2, that accommodates senior citizens," she says, adding that the money has been provided for the mental and physical health of older people.

"But there has to be more tangible things that will impact our seniors. You have to remember, I am a senior citizen," she says with a laugh.

Leake says that she's run for county commissioner before, and she won the primary contest. She believes her run for the county commissioners is a directive from God.

"This is what I perceive that God wants me to do. He wants me to reach out and touch somebody's hand and make this world and this county a better place if you can," she says. (She didn't actually sing the line made famous by Diana Ross.)

Just like Leake, Cogdell isn't a stranger to Charlotte politics. He says he's hitting the campaign trail with a message of unity.

"I get asked the question about the sheriff's race, and I think the leadership in the county did what needed to be done," says Cogdell, "and that was: address the issue and not avoid the issue. Regardless of the position that you took on it, that was better than allowing the community to continue to engage in divisiveness."

Even though he defended Mackey in court in January during a contempt of court proceeding, Cogdell says the county's handling of the sheriff's race isn't why he decided to run for an open at-large seat.

"This is a much different campaign than running in a district," says Cogdell. He plans to travel over the county, including points north like Davidson and Cornelius to introduce himself to voters.

Cogdell says he's not a person who will avoid difficult issues; those issues, according to Cogdell include air quality, transportation and education.

Over the next nine months, he says he hopes to share his vision with the entire Mecklenburg County community.

"There are several things that I commend the county on as far as leadership," he says. "But it's up to the voters of Mecklenburg County to decide whether those who currently serve on the county commission at large on either side of the political fence will get re-elected."

There have been rumblings about some voters not supporting current commission chair Jennifer Roberts, who holds an at large seat.

In a recent Charlotte Observer article, some of Roberts's former supporters were quoted as saying they would not vote for her again because of the handling of the sheriff's election.

But Cogdell doesn't think the issue of the December election will play in the November general election.

"People have short term memories," he says. "I certainly hope the residents of this county will come out and support Democratic candidates, but I look forward to working with anyone."

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