I don’t live in Charlotte, and I have no rooting interest in the mayoral race there. Nevertheless, it is an important statewide event. Not only is this election the marquee race of the year, Charlotte mayors are steadily broadening their political reach. A race with those stakes merits close attention. And in my view, observers significantly underrate the advantages of Jennifer Roberts.
This race has three well known candidates. They are Roberts, Mayor pro tem Vi Lyles and state Senator Joel Ford, formerly a DSCC recruiting target. Each candidate has a large war chest. So Charlotteans can expect TV ads and extensive on-the-ground contact. It will resemble a state or federal campaign more than a municipal race. The primary’s guaranteed to be vigorously contested.
Still, Roberts is the strong favorite. The mere fact of incumbency gives her a strong edge. That is the case in any election, but especially in a far-down ballot race where name recognition is decisive. The other two have the money to get their names out there, but not to an extent that exceeds or even matches Roberts. She will stand out on any ballot, which should draw votes to her column.
Furthermore, Roberts has battle scars. Democratic voters despise the General Assembly. Her identity as a top legislative foe gives her huge credibility. Although there are legitimate beefs with her record, I doubt these will undermine what is a very attractive image to Democrats. It’s possible that they will keep her for that reason alone.
True, she is not the only one with assets. Both her challengers have connections to the African-American vote. They have ideological footholds as well. Neither of them, however, carry the package of strengths that I believe will deliver a solid victory to the incumbent.