Charlotte mayor, black caucus leader in dispute

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The mayor of North Carolina’s largest city is in a dispute with the chairman of the local black political caucus over an upcoming candidate debate.

The Charlotte Observer reports Black Political Caucus chair Colette Forrest wrote in a news release that Mayor Jennifer Roberts would not be participating in the group’s May 18 debate. She said that Roberts’ failure to attend “makes us feel that she does not respect nor truly value the African-American vote.”

An email sent by Forrest on Monday asked, “Are African-Americans Mere Facebook Props to Mayor Jennifer Roberts?” Forrest also said there was no bad blood between her and the mayor.

Roberts campaign manager Sam Spencer said the mayor would be attending the debate and called the news release false.

“Mayor Roberts is attending the debate. Yet again, these attacks on Mayor Roberts are out of bounds, totally false, and personal,” Spencer said.

But, in responding to the invitation, which came last week, Spencer said Roberts had multiple commitments that day. One of them is an awards banquet for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The debate is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., and Spencer said in responding to the invitation that the mayor would have a “30-minute window at most.”

Roberts is running for a second term, and faces Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford in the Democratic imary. Both are black. Roberts was in office when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance establishing protections for the LGBT community. That ordinance sparked the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass House Bill 2, a measure limiting LGBT protections against discrimination that was eventually repealed.

Black voters make up nearly two out of three Democratic voters in Charlotte.

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