By Wednesday morning, Harold Cogdell will likely be chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Nothing is certain, of course, as we learned last year when Cogdell bowed out at the last minute and allowed fellow Democrat Jennifer Roberts to retain the gavel. But we're told Roberts has called the four Republicans on the board asking for their support again this year, and only two have returned her calls. Those two told her that she wouldn't get their vote.
Democrats are furious at Cogdell's power grab - first because of the naked ambition behind it, but also because of how it might impact board votes in the coming year. The ambition charge is a little dubious - yes, Cogdell is covetous of the more powerful position, and he shoved aside protocol in grabbing the chair from a fellow party member who got more votes than he did the last time they ran, in 2010.
But Roberts isn't devoid of ambition. She's likely running for higher office soon and knows that being board chair will bring her a very public stage when the Democratic Convention comes to town next year.
Still, Democrats are rightly concerned with how Cogdell's maneuvering will steal power from the 5-4 majority they have on the board. By pledging to Republicans that he'll consider a more conservative view on taxes and spending, he may be committing himself to a worldview that doesn't fit with the rest of his party.
That'll be critical in 2012, with commissioners facing possible cuts to schools and programs for the poor. Will Cogdell feel obligated to side more with Republicans on tax rates and spending cuts than he previously has been? Democrats and Republicans in Mecklenburg tell us yes. Said one: "Harold has sold his soul."
What did he get in return? We're not sure. He'll have plenty of cameras pointed his way in this busy upcoming year for Charlotte. But if his aim is to use that exposure to propel himself toward higher office, he'll have to do so without the support of his party's establishment, which believes he's shown himself to be about Harold first, everyone else later.
He also shouldn't expect much loyalty from Republicans, who are embracing him only for the possibility of policy support. Privately, they don't really trust him, either.
That's not a reputation you want for your next citywide, countywide - or perhaps bigger - election. But it's what Cogdell has bought himself. He'll get tomorrow what he's wanted for two years. But it's going to be a very lonely throne.