Commissioners back Swain in mayor race
by Staff Writer
by Josh Lanier
HUNTERSVILLE – Four members of the Huntersville town board issued a letter this week endorsing Mayor Jill Swain over their fellow commissioner Danae Caulfield in the mayoral race.
The letter, signed by commissioners Sarah McAulay, Ron Julian, Charles Jeter and former Commissioner Ken Lucas, lists Swain’s accomplishments and urges voters to back her in the election.
“Some of us have publicly feuded with Jill numerous times over the past few years,” the letter reads. “Some of us have more in common ideologically with Mayor Swain’s opponent. However, all four of us believe without reservation that Jill is the best choice for Huntersville’s mayor.”
The letter lists Swain’s behind-the-scenes work in recruiting companies like Saertex, ABB and Lime Energy to the area, as well as her work on numerous regional committees, her strong relationships with other town leaders and ability to provide a positive public face for the town.
Swain said the unsolicited letter left her “numb” and “humbled.”
“This is one of the nicest compliments I have ever received,” she said.
Caulfield said Tuesday the endorsements are an attack because she is advocating installing term limits for elected leaders. All of the incumbents who signed the letter have served multiple terms on the board.
“On Oct. 13, I announced publicly at our Town Hall debate, with all sitting commissioners present, that the first thing I was going to ask our new board to do, was to consider implementing term limits,” Caulfield said in a statement. “I saw a reaction on their faces. I heard Commissioner McAulay respond during her speaking time that she was opposed to it, and I immediately saw a change in their behavior towards me.”
In her response, Caulfield attached a photo of Jeter wearing a “Caulfield for Mayor” sticker and posing with the first-term commissioner cum mayoral candidate at an Oct. 11 candidate’s forum.
“You can make your own conclusions,” Caulfield said in a phone interview about the photo. “But it seems a little strange (Jeter) would change his tune after I bring up term limits.”
Jeter, who wrote the majority of Swain’s endorsement letter, said he began considering backing Swain after the Town Hall debate, but his decision had nothing to do with term limits. Jeter said he also supports that idea.
“In that forum, Danae gets up there and says she’s going to look at the commissioners’ strengths and appoint them to boards that they’re best suited for if she gets elected,” Jeter said. “The mayor can’t do that. The mayor doesn’t have that power. That’s the board’s decision. Her blatant lack of knowledge and understanding about the job she is applying for is frightening … When you get into the brass tacks of what the mayor actually does, there is no question: Jill is head and shoulders a better candidate.”
Jeter also said Caulfield’s voting record doesn’t support some of her campaign’s claims.
“She voted for the tax increase this year,” he said. “She is touting her fiscal conservative credentials but she hasn’t voted that way while serving on this board. She’s more liberal than she leads on …
“And if she wants to talk about career politicians, let’s look at Swain’s ‘career.’ She’s made about $5,000 a year (the stipend given to elected leaders) for 12 years as a public servant. If she’s able to make a career out of that then Danae’s idea of a career is far different what most people would think of as a career.”
But Caulfield has her supporters.
She’s picked up nominations from the Police Benevolence Association and former mayoral candidate Sandy Tilley. Cornelius Commissioner Jim Bensman and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Karen Bentley both wrote letters of recommendation on her behalf.
“I always know that she is being straightforward in her communication and that she can be trusted to deliver on her commitments,” Bensman wrote. “In these times of distrust of government at all levels, this trait is of paramount importance.”
During the town hall debate, former mayor pro tem and commission candidate Brian Sisson used his closing comments to advocate for Caulfield, saying she “is the best candidate for this town.”
The commissioner letter comes only weeks before the Nov. 8 election and will likely have an impact reaching far past that.
Jeter observed that if Caulfield is elected mayor and Jeter is also re-elected, he would serve with her.
“In the end, this letter will probably cost me votes,” he said. “I will probably suffer the most because Danae and I likely have similar voters. But the fact that I, and the rest of this board, are willing to stand up and say this, shows how important we feel about this issue. We want Swain as this town’s mayor.”
Tarte endorses Swain
Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte released a statement this week endorsing Swain for mayor.
“Mayor Swain loves her community and has outstanding working relationships with regional and state leaders,” he wrote. “She represents Huntersville well to everyone from Fortune 1,000 business executives to students at our area high schools.”
Tarte went on to list Swain’s accomplishments in advocating for things like Discovery Place Kids, improving local roads and her work on the region’s transportation committee.
“I would be very confident in the direction and well being of a town led by Mayor Swain,” he continued. “I wish her well on Nov. 8.”
Jeff Tarte's Endorsement