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Republican Bokhari says he spent more than $200K to edge out Democrat in Charlotte City Council race

Tariq Bokhari celebrated his narrow victory at Selwyn Pub Tuesday night.
Steve Harrison
Tariq Bokhari celebrated his narrow victory at Selwyn Pub Tuesday night.

Republican City Council member Tariq Bokhari estimated he spent more than $200,000 from his own campaign to help narrowly win reelection to his south Charlotte District 6 seat.

In addition to money from his own campaign, Bokhari estimates the state Republican Party and other outside groups may have pushed the total amount spent to nearly $400,000.

That's a huge amount of money for a City Council district race. Many are won with just a few thousand dollars.

One of Bokhari’s expenses: $5,700 on a private plane to fly over the district on Election Day with a banner saying, “Want the plane truth? Vote Bokhari.” That was a reference to his criticism of his Democratic opponent, Stephanie Hand, who he said had exaggerated her experience in the airport industry.

“That was the best money I spent,” said Bokhari, who shared a video of the plane on social media and got more than 70,000 impressions.

Hand had often said that she had experience running airports. She was an executive at the company that ran the concessions at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and other airports.

After Tuesday's election, Bokhari came out ahead of Hand by 352 votes — almost the same as his 357-vote victory over Hand in 2022.

During early voting, Republicans weren’t turning out at the same rate they did a year earlier. Bokhari started Election Day behind more than 1,300 votes. But he overcame Hand’s lead based on a surge of Republicans who came to the polls on Tuesday.

Hand’s campaign estimated she spent about $70,000.

Bokhari's win denied Democrats a 10-1 advantage on City Council.

Mecklenburg Elections Director Michael Dickerson said there are still roughly 400 mail ballots that were requested that haven’t been returned. He said he only expects about 20% of those to come back.

If those ballots were postmarked on Election Day, they will still be counted so long as they arrive by Monday.

There are also about 360 provisional ballots cast yesterday, many by people who came to the polls without a photo ID. Those will be judged and their eligibility decided on by election officials.

Other close results

In Cornelius, incumbent Mayor Woody Washam is ahead of challenger Denis Bilodeau by 13 votes, out of more than 5,500 cast.

In Union County, Bob Yanacsek is leading the Monroe mayor’s race with 964 votes to Robert Burns’ 963.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.