CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Patrick Cannon’s rise to mayor began with his election to City Council in 1993, at a time when Charlotte was emerging as a major banking center.
Gleaming skyscrapers began painting the skyline of a New South city that had a fledgling NBA team and an NFL franchise on the way.
Cannon was a reflection of the up-and-coming city – a young businessman and politician with a made-for-TV backstory. He’d been raised in a housing project by a single mom and mentored by some of Charlotte’s most powerful political and business figures, before building a successful parking business in the shadow of the downtown office buildings.
After he was elected mayor in November, the Democrat, 47, promised to tackle tough issues facing Charlotte and build on the success of the 2012 Democratic National Convention that put Charlotte on a national stage.
But Cannon’s career came to a stunning halt Wednesday when he was arrested and accused of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to work with North Carolina’s largest city. He resigned hours later, less than six months after taking office.
Cannon’s downfall has stunned the city of 760,000 people.
Parks Helms, a Charlotte attorney who served in the North Carolina General Assembly for 10 years and the county commission for 16 years, said Cannon appears to have wasted immense potential.
“I think he had such promise as a new, young elected official, and he had such potential,” Helms said. “But he just squandered it all because of the way he conducted himself with these bribes.”
According to the criminal complaint, Cannon accepted more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and the use of a luxury apartment as bribes, and he solicited more than $1 million more.
If convicted on all charges, Cannon faces up to 50 years in prison.