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Roberts Wins Charlotte Mayor's Race; Democrats Claim All At-Large Council Seats

It’s time for Jennifer Roberts to update her profile on LinkedIn. The former teacher, businesswoman, and diplomat is now Charlotte’s mayor-elect.

The Democrat’s win wasn’t a landslide. The margin of victory against Republican Edwin Peacock was less than 5 percent in a heavily Democratic city. But it was enough for some to wonder if they’ll ever reclaim that seat.

There were no campaign T-shirts or placards on display Tuesday night at Jackalope Jacks. The only visible sign this was a victory party was a simple one written in chalk that read “Welcome Jennifer Roberts’ supporters” and the occasional “I Voted” sticker proudly stuck to the outside of a shirt or jacket.

A cover band played songs like “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles, while Roberts’ supporters only occasionally checked the returns in real time which were projected onto a screen.

Even as Edwin Peacock, the Republican challenger for mayor, closed to within 3,723 votes, these supporters were quietly confident that Charlotte, politically, was theirs.

The first cheers of the night came around 10 o’clock, when Jennifer Roberts entered the bar victorious.

“Tonight’s win is a win for Charlotte,” said Roberts.

She borrowed a line from President Bill Clinton to explain what swept her to victory and the mayor’s corner office.

“The politics of personal destruction were soundly defeated by the positive message of expanding opportunity and optimism,” she said. 

Opportunity was a key focus of Roberts’ campaign. She took her victory speech as an opportunity to stress what that entails

“I look forward to working with you to make sure opportunity, whether it’s for schools, or housing, or transportation, or jobs, opportunity reaches every corner of our great city,” said Roberts. 

Whereas the Roberts’ campaign didn’t seem concerned by results, Edwin Peacock’s supporters couldn’t help but continue to press the computer refresh button over and over again as numbers rolled in. All eyes were glued to a large screen at Dressler’s restaurant just outside of Uptown.

Their hope was an exercise in futility, since it was another disappointing night for Peacock.

“You feel a sense of frustration over so much effort to fall short again, in this case, 3,000 less than last time. So that’s tough,” said Peacock.

Last time was just two years ago.

For a Republican running in a very blue city, his moderate politics made him the ideal party candidate says Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer.

Still, the way the city’s political makeup is shifting left, he says something dire would need to happen for a Republican to get elected mayor.

“A Democratic party that is in disarray, an incumbent that’s maybe under some ethical cloud. It would take a lot now to reverse that trend,” says Bitzer.

For example, maybe if the scandal involving former Mayor Patrick Cannon, who defeated Peacock in 2013, hit a little sooner or maybe if it came later in Cannon’s term.

Peacock received a lot of questions about whether he’d consider running a third time. 

“When you make that decision, you take the whole family with you and I’ve got to evaluate that going forward. Will a race in Charlotte, NC be the best place for Edwin Peacock?” asked Peacock. “We felt like our star was rising and Jennifer’s was falling this week. It just didn’t fall far enough.”

Peacock says he’s going to focus on getting back to normal. For now, he says he’s not running for office—he’s running from it. 

Democrats Claim All At-Large Seats On Charlotte City Council

Charlotte City Council will once again have four Democratic at-large candidates.  Incumbents Vi Lyles and Claire Fallon received about 16 percent of votes.  Newcomer Julie Eiselt was the top vote-getter.  She worked in international banking for many years and founded the group Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte.  Former city council member James Mitchell came in fourth, less than 200 votes ahead of Republican John Powell.  All of the incumbents in district seats held on to their positions.   

Aneralla Is Huntersville Mayor-Elect

In Huntersville, challenger John Aneralla soundly defeated four-term mayor Jill Swain with 59 percent of the vote. Both Aneralla and Swain are Republicans, but Huntersville’s elections are non-partisan. Aneralla is a former Mecklenburg County Republican Party chairman.

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.
Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. 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.