Republicans now need two things to happen in order to elect one of their own as mayor of Charlotte: they need depressed minority turnout, and they need to absolutely crush in the suburbs.
During Edwin Peacock’s two campaigns for mayor, both those things have happened. Just not at the same time – and that’s why Democrats are going to retain the mayoral office with former County Commission chairwoman Jennifer Roberts.
Going into yesterday, the most recent polls showed Peacock trailing Roberts by quite a bit. But things on the ground looked more promising. Democrats (and African Americans) were way down in early voting, Republicans were up, and a nasty primary had some allies of the current mayor sitting on their hands.
As it turned out, Roberts did much worse in the early voting period and banked much fewer votes than Patrick Cannon, who won in 2013. But she did better on Election Day. While Cannon won Election Day 2013 voters by less than 200 votes, Roberts won Election Day 2015 voters with a margin of over 1,000. This would seem to lend support to the theory that Roberts suffered from lower African American turnout in the city but made up for it with stronger appeal to white voters in the suburbs.
So, while Roberts didn’t energize the black vote, her profile made her a better fit with white voters (and especially white women) than Patrick Cannon. In a nutshell, to win in Charlotte, GOP candidates need to absolutely dominate the suburban vote. They did it in ’13 but didn’t get the support they needed from the suburbs this time around. Precincts in southern Charlotte Peacock won two years ago 75-25 he instead carried 70-30 or 65-35. In precinct after precinct, that tends to add up.
Jennifer Roberts ran a fairly bland, non-risky campaign, emphasizing issues like education and women’s rights. She was the frontrunner from the very beginning, in both the primary and the general and never once relinquished her lead – due in no small part to her increased appeal with the generally Republican “soccer mom” vote.
Peacock made a good run this year. He just landed the wrong opponent.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.