After coming in second to challenger John Higdon in the October 8 primary by a margin of 55 to 42, incumbent Matthews Mayor Paul Bailey is looking for support wherever he can get it.
Now it appears he might also be manufacturing support where he doesn’t have it.
According to multiple people who were at the October 15 candidate forum of the Matthews Woman’s Club Service League, Bailey told those in attendance that he had full support of two unnamed members of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education for his reelection campaign.
The news came as a surprise to those who had followed tensions between Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and Matthews leadership over HB 514, a state law passed last year that gave Matthews and 3 other largely white Mecklenburg County towns the right to set up their own municipal charter schools. CMS officials objected to HB 514 on the grounds that such an action would increase segregation in an already highly segregated school district.
Bailey was a strong proponent of the law from its earliest days, saying it was necessary because CMS had no plans to build new schools in Matthews. As the relationship devolved, Bailey accused the Board of Education of being more focused on political retribution than on educating children.
Now Bailey faces the prospect of losing his office to John Higdon and is trying his hardest to change the writing on the wall. Higdon, who currently serves as a Matthews town commissioner, has consistently opposed plans to open municipal charter schools and has made improving relations with CMS a central tenet of his campaign.
But back to those mysterious endorsements. It’s telling that Mayor Bailey, himself a former member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, declined to name the board members he claims support his bid for reelection. I think we can all agree that that’s not at all how political endorsements work.
It’s probably safe to assume that CMS District 6 Board of Education representative Sean Strain is all aboard the Bailey train. However, after confirming as much with the eight other board members, I can assure you that Strain would be the only one.
Mayor Bailey did contact several members of the Board of Education just prior to the October 15 candidate forum in an apparent attempt to smooth things over, but he reportedly did not even ask for endorsements. While their reasons varied from support for his opponent to a desire to avoid getting involved in Matthews politics, all CMS Board of Education members not named Sean Strain have clarified since the candidate forum that they would not be interested in endorsing Bailey’s campaign.
I reached out to Mayor Bailey to ask if he could identify the two board members he claims have pledged their support to his reelection campaign. He didn’t respond.