Meet Colette Forrest:  Charlotte’s new power broker

Colette, as new Chairman of the Black Political Caucus elected by that body in February 2017, has demonstrated she has muscle to create the momentum to generate the votes in the November 7 election for Mayor of Charlotte and four at large City Council members. Once the Caucus officially voted for their endorsements in the primary and in the general election Colette proceeded to develop a strategy to get Democrats to the polls. The consequence of her leadership: The Caucus endorsements in the primaries won (those who weren’t endorsed…even incumbents..lost. The same held for the general election. I sat down with Colette to learn all about her.

  • Where did you grow up? Tell me about your family, and what was your favorite thing to do as a child?
I grew up in Charleston, SC. I am an only child and my parents passed away at a young age. My mother from epilepsy when she had a grand mal seizure and my father was KIA in Vietnam. They both died at age 19. Politics is in my genetic DNA. My mother who is now deceased, participated in her first picket at age 16. She later died at 19 but not before she passed the genes of protest to me. Everything is political, so I try to work within the cycle of elections to politically change what I can. I loved reading, that was my favorite thing to do as a child.
  • You moved to Charlotte in 1997. What brought you here?
I had a job offer from Carroll Gray with the Charlotte Chamber.
  • Once in town you became immediately involved in Charlotte politics. What spurred your interest in becoming involved on the political front?  Under your leadership the Caucus has been energized. For the first time all the candidates who were endorsed by the Caucus….Mayor and City Council were elected.  Those who weren’t endorsed were not. Would you share your game plan and how your leadership made that happen?

The late great Don Baker who was former Congressman Mel Watt’s right hand, introduced me to Charlotte politics. Prior to moving, I was involved in SC & DC politics. I had previously worked on the Hill and with SC Congressman Jim Clyburn campaigns and Mr. Baker was aware of my work.

Starting early, I feel was a key to the BPC’s success, that coupled with a lot of hard work.

  • If you could chose your dinner partner living or dead who would it be and why?
Fannie Lou Hammer. I would want to thank her for her invaluable contributions and compare notes with her about the treatment of Black women then and now in politics.
  • If you had a magic wand or could twitch your nose like Samantha from Bewitched and make anything happen. What would that be?
Give President Obama another term, make JFK be his Vice President, Joe Biden their Chief of Staff and Erskine Bowles as their fiscal director.
  • You are Chairman of the Caucus until 2019, what are your plans for that time? And what do you see as the major issues facing Charlotte

I can just take one day at a time, but I would let the BPC body decide what the BPC plans are.

Affordable housing, the rising homicide rate and equitable living are major issues facing Charlotte.

About Colette

And who might this be?  Could it be three year old Colette Forrest? She looks exactly the same now, don’t you think?

I have been a paid staffer for NC US Senator John Edwards, worked on the paid campaign staff of NC US Congressman Mel Watt, NC US Senate Candidate Erskine Bowles, At-Large Charlotte, NC City Councilman Anthony Foxx, NC Governor Beverly Perdue , NC US Senator Kay Hagan and Charlotte, NC District Court Judge Charlotte Brown-Williams.

I have volunteered on the campaigns of SC US Congressman Jim Clyburn, Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin, Charlotte, NC At-Large City Councilman & Mayor Patrick Cannon, Charlotte, NC Mayor Anthony Foxx and Charlotte, NC District Court Judge Kimberly Best-Staton.

Everything is political so I try my best to engage in everything I can politically.

Charles de Gaulle said it best: “I have come to the conclusion that politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians. ” I agree.

I dare to change the status quo.

“My most important campaign is raising an intelligent, happy, healthy, positive & productive strong Black man with my 10 year old son, Bobby.”




In my opinion the Mecklenburg County Republican party is toast. What do I attribute that do?

Number 1. Extremely poor leadership at the the top. There is significant party infighting and no strategic get the vote out efforts. With only 21% of registered Republicans in the City of Charlotte efforts should have been made to target unaffiliated voters.

Dan Barry, Union County GOP Chair and candidate for Congress against Robert Pittenger in 2012 ,has been brought in to ‘fix” the MeckGop. He even contacted me to set up a lunch meeting. I threw him a few dates but he has yet to get back to me. Guess he changed his mind.

Number 2: My friend and Republican County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour put it to me most succinctly as an image problem as well.

Strategically, whether we Republicans want to admit it or not, we have a local image and messaging problem. We are viewed as being unwilling to change in an ever-changing world, that we do not welcome diversity in thought or in membership, and that we are out of touch with the day to day cares and interests of anyone who is not Republican. We have a messaging problem, because our outreach and communication often comes across as plastic, indifferent, and formulaic. Furthermore, we are not effectively using today’s issues and themes to communicate our principals and solutions. These points are what I consistently hear from my unaffiliated and Democrat friends. 

From a tactical standpoint, we need to look at how this translates down to the district level and precinct level. City council districts that 10 years ago were being won by the GOP by 50 points are now being won by 26 points. If these trends continue, within 10 years the GOP will not hold many seats in Mecklenburg County, and certainly none in Charlotte. I know this is not what Republicans want to hear, but we have to do some serious soul-searching if we intend to turn the tide here in Charlotte”

$64,000 question:  can the MeckGop fix this?

Great analysis by Steve Harrison of the Charlotte Observer on the districting problem as well.