A second UNC Charlotte student is vying for local office.
Cade Lee announced his candidacy for the District 3 seat of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners on July 15. Lee is a Political Science and International Studies double major from Raleigh. He announced his bid for public office just two months after Gabe Cartagena, also a rising senior at UNC Charlotte, declared his candidacy for Charlotte City Council.
If electected, Lee will serve on the nine-member Board of County Commissioners that acts as the governing body of Mecklenburg County. Six commissioners are elected by district and three commissioners serve at-large. The Board is in charge of the annual county budget, setting the property tax rate and establishing priorities on community needs. According to Lee, those needs are political accountability, education, affordable housing and environmental policies.
Lee is challenging incumbent Democrat George Dunlap, who has served six terms and currently serves as the chairman. Despite Dunlap’s long-time hold over the seat, Lee remains hopeful. He says citizens in District 3 are disillusioned with Dunlap and that he violated state law when he discussed changes to the budget away from public view.
They will face off in the primary on March 3, when voters will also elect their preferred presidential candidate. Lee says he’s hopeful that this will increase voter turnout, which was a mere 11,000 last year in a district of nearly 100,000.
Lee gave up a managerial position at Amelie’s Bakery in order to focus on politics, something he says he first became interested in after the 2016 presidential election. He currently serves as chairman of the College Chapters of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and founded UNC Charlotte’s chapter of March for Our Lives, an organization that advocates for greater gun regulation. Like Cartagena, he was inspired to run after the April 30 shooting on UNC Charlotte’s campus.
“It was mostly because after the shooting the president of the [Charlotte] NAACP and I sent out emails to all local elected officials to discuss gun violence, but we didn’t even hear back from half… This year, [Charlotte is] expected to double the amount of homicides that occurred last year, and all but two so far have been committed with a firearm. It’s such a controversial topic that [elected officials are] afraid of how it’s going to affect their votes. We need progressive leaders that are not afraid to stand up for issues that are affecting our community,” said Lee.
Another one of those issues that politicians won’t touch, according to Lee, is modern-day school segregation. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district is the most segregated in North Carolina, and Lee wants to tackle it with a new busing system. He says the system must be fair and observe reasonable transportation time.
“Students shouldn’t be around people who only look like them, especially when we have such a culture of white privilege,” explained Lee.
The rising senior also wants to expand Charlotte’s greenways. He points out that despite the 2008 greenway plan calling for 129 miles by 2018, Mecklenburg County currently has 47 miles of existing greenway.
If elected in the March 3 primary, Lee will move on to the general election on Nov. 3, 2020.
Cartagena and Lee both believe that judging political experience based on age is equivalent to judging someone’s experience based on the color of their skin. If elected, they would be the youngest members serving for their respective organizations.