Edwin Peacock, who serves on the Charlotte City Council, is running for Mayor and has already assembled an impressive campaign team, many of whom are veterans of the McCrory campaign.
Peacock has the right profile for a mayoral candidate. He has service on the city council, his father was well-known in the community, and he’s known as a moderate, similar to Pat McCrory. Peacock ran for Congress in the 9th district last year, and even though he lost many viewed him as a Republican rising star. A win in the state’s largest city would provide a big momentum boost to Republicans going into 2014.
Peacock’s biggest problem: demographics. Charlotte was 73 percent white when Pat McCrory was elected in 1995. Now it’s only 53 percent white. Blacks are also registered in greater numbers than they used to be. For an example of the demographic change that’s happened in Charlotte, take a look at Anthony Foxx. Back when Harvey Gantt was mayor, the election of an African American in the South by an overwhelmingly white electorate was something remarkable. Now, it’s expected, because the electorate is no longer overwhelmingly white.
Charlotte-based consultant Larry Shaheen says: “In the end, this is going to come down to demographics. And if the demographics are similar to 2009 and 2011, it’s going to be tough.”
The race in 2011 was a bit of an anomaly because OFA was heavily involved with the election that year, viewing it as a test run for the Obama campaign in 2012. There was no equivalent turnout machine on behalf of Republicans.
What should worry Republicans is 2009. The Republican candidate, John Lassiter, had a similar profile to Peacock, and there was a lot of goodwill toward McCrory. After all, McCrory had been mayor for 14 years. Lassiter ran on a platform of “keep a good thing going”. Lassiter lost in an upset, and Anthony Foxx was elected mayor. Democrats’ victory in the Charlotte mayoral race was a bright spot on a bad election night where they lost gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia.
Since then, demographics have only gotten tougher for Republicans. Edwin Peacock is a fine candidate. Some conservatives have complained about his opposition to Amendment 1, but from the results last year it looks like Mecklenburg residents shared his concerns. Peacock will almost certainly win many of the independents who voted for Obama last year, and he’ll probably win a fair share of white Democrats. But Republicans have a very low ceiling in Charlotte. In fact, it’s possible that the ceiling is already too low for any Republican to win.
Peacock can still prevail. But it will be tough. He’ll need to run a near-perfect campaign, and his opponent will have to have some missteps or be embroiled in scandal. Even if Peacock does win, time is running short for Republicans to be competitive in this city that is quickly becoming solid blue territory.