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Roberts Soundly Beats Clodfelter In Democratic Runoff

A field of eight mayoral candidates is now down to two. Jennifer Roberts beat Democratic incumbent Dan Clodfelter by nearly 10 percent.  She faces Republican Edwin Peacock in the general election.


The Peculiar Rabbit in Charlotte’s Plaza-Midwood neighborhood has been particularly lucky for Jennifer Roberts. It’s where she first learned she was top vote-getter in last month’s Democratic primary.  And it’s where she received more good news last night. By the time she walked through the door, the second floor of the Peculiar Rabbit was packed with her supporters all chanting "Jennifer."

The entire night felt like a victory party. That’s partly because going into the evening, the Roberts campaign knew it had a leg up from early voting results that were overwhelmingly in her favor.

Roberts is an experienced politician, having served as the chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission. But Roberts says it was her messaging that got people to the polls.

“I think we had a positive, optimistic message. I think we energized a lot of people with a positive sense of what Charlotte can be and what Charlotte can do.”

That messaging seemed to work across the city. Roberts dominated in North, East, and West Charlotte. Turnout was 6 percent. Certainly low, but higher than expected for a runoff election.

Roberts commented that the next four weeks leading up to the election against Republican Edwin Peacock will be challenging, but she said, she’s up for it.

"I’m going to get up  tomorrow and start doing it again, I’m an athlete so I’m used to playing sports and competing."

She’ll need that energy going into the general election, which begins now. The general election isn’t until November 3rd, but Roberts and the Republican nominee Edwin Peacock will have their first debate this week.


The Clodfelter campaign also gathered at their lucky rabbit-themed spot, Jackalope Jacks. And even after the early voter results showed their candidate was down by 20 points, staff eagerly placed 'Clodfelter for Mayor' T-shirts on the tables free for the taking. After all, their candidate rarely lost. He served three stints on the city council and 15 years in the North Carolina Senate.

But as the night went on and the numbers rolled in, they seemed to push the energy out of the room. At 8 p.m. Clodfelter was down by 900 votes. By 8:30 the gap had widened to 10 points. And that is roughly where it would stay.  The only bright spot was southeast Charlotte, which Clodfelter handily won.

What started off feeling like a party soon took on the air of inevitable defeat. Until the candidate walked in.

Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE
Dan Clodfelter greeting supporters at Jackalope Jacks

Greeted by cheers and applause. Still, even with a broad smile underneath his trademark mustache, Dan Clodfelter knew the numbers weren’t in his favor.

"They’re not what I’d like them to be, that’s for sure," he said.

But instead of trying to rally his supporters, he went to each to thank them for their support.

And after hugs and handshakes, many left before the final vote tally was done. The campaign staff was left with a stack of T-shirts, a sign they expected more supporters at the restaurant and at the polls.

As for Clodfelter, he still had his sense of humor.

"What I’m thinking about now is sleeping in tomorrow morning." And he says he was left with one regret, timing. "I really regret we didn’t start sooner," he said, "You know (Roberts) had a one year head start on me and I was running behind the whole way. So I’m really pleased we came as far as we did and we just couldn’t clear the gap at the end and that happens. That happens."

Clodfelter isn’t sure what, if anything, will come next for him politically. For Charlotte, now that the incumbent has been knocked out of the election, the city will have its fifth mayor in three years.

Sarah Delia covers criminal justice and the arts for WFAE. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.
Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.