Democrat Patrick Cannon, who rose from public housing to successful careers in business and politics, won his “life goal” Tuesday night, defeating Republican Edwin Peacock to become Charlotte’s next mayor.
Riding solid support in east, west and north Charlotte, Cannon won 53.02 percent to 46.78 percent. Countywide turnout was just under 18 percent.
Moments after taking a concession call from Peacock around 10 p.m., Cannon stepped on stage in front of jubilant supporters at the Sheraton Hotel, where he was introduced by the city’s first African American mayor, Democrat Harvey Gantt.
“I am happy, but ... I am so humbled,” Cannon said to chants of “Patrick! Patrick!” “This didn’t have to be, but you made it so.... I am realizing a life goal.”
Cannon, 46, will succeed Democrat Patsy Kinsey, who was appointed in July when former Mayor Anthony Foxx became U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Cannon went into Election Day with a solid head-start. He won 65 percent of the early vote, for a 5,481-vote cushion. He also benefited from an 11,600-vote margin in Democratic straight-party ballots.
Peacock, a former city council member, out-raised Cannon in dollars but couldn’t match him in votes. He was running for the same job his father Ed sought unsuccessfully 30 years ago, when he lost to Gantt.
Peacock won the southeast Charlotte wedge, often handily. In the precinct that includes the Harris YMCA, for instance, he won 870-236.
Speaking to supporters at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille, Peacock said he started with two goals: improve the culture of local government and ensure Charlotte’s economic future. And, he said, his campaign stayed true to those themes.
Peacock also saluted his chief campaign consultant, veteran GOP strategist Jack Hawke. The former state party chairman and adviser to three Republican governors, died Monday in Raleigh.
“He gave me the confidence to proceed forward in this race,” Peacock told the Observer Tuesday night. “It did mean a lot for me (that) he felt I was the right candidate.”
Cannon’s victory, combined with his party’s incoming 9-2 city council majority, underscores how Democratic Charlotte has become.
Despite being led by Republican mayors from 1987 to 2009, the city is the Democratic heart of a county that President Barack Obama twice carried by more than 100,000 votes.
Running on experience
Cannon was Charlotte’s youngest-ever council member when first elected at age 26 in 1993. Now the mayor pro tem, he ran on experience, a fact that clearly resonated with some voters.
“I just think he knows more about the city,” said Jackie Lewis, 52, a Democrat who voted in east Charlotte. “He’s been in the trenches.”
Glenn Nanney, a Democratic voter in Chantilly, said Cannon “has more experience (and) is more well-rounded to do the job.”
Peacock counted on solid turnout from Republicans, which he apppeared to get. He also hoped to win independents and Democrats willing to cross party lines, at least in the mayor’s race.
“I can’t tell you how much I dislike Republicans,” said Lucy Jarrett, a 55-year-old Democrat who lives in Elizabeth. “And yet I voted for Peacock because ... I don’t want to think I’m totally close-minded to a good candidate from the other party.”
In Jarrett’s heavily Democrat Precinct 109, Peacock won 208-207. He also won other precincts in normally Democratic areas of Dilworth, Elizabeth and Plaza-Midwood.
While both cast themselves as moderates, Cannon and Peacock differed on taxes and spending.
Cannon defended his vote this year for an $816 million capital budget, which he called an investment in Charlotte’s future. Peacock objected to the 7 percent property tax hike, saying it was a burden to taxpayers just emerging from a recession.
Race gets heated
Until recently, the race had been low-key. But during a debate two weeks ago, Cannon asked Peacock if he was “anti-Charlotte.”
Then, on Monday, Peacock called a news conference to question whether Cannon had been “100 percent truthful” in saying he’d never been in closed-door meetings with the Carolina Panthers.
Records show Cannon was actually in three of the four closed meetings earlier this year when the city was considering helping the team financially.
The city eventually gave the team $87.5 million. But Cannon, who has a parking contract with the Panthers, recused himself from voting on the deal.
Cannon, who crashed Peacock’s news conference, called the charges a “desperate attempt” to win support a day before the election.
Against the odds
Cannon campaigned on biography, portraying himself as a man who has run against the odds and won.
When he was 5, his father, Thomas Odom, was found dead of a gunshot wound outside a vacant westside school. He was raised by his mother, Carmen, who worked on a truck assembly line in south Charlotte. They lived in public housing.
Now Cannon runs a successful parking business.
Cannon ran on a record that includes luring investment and affordable housing to low-income neighborhoods. He helped champion the Westside Strategy Plan and once even drove the bulldozer that razed a blighted corner on West Boulevard.
“The mayor is going to carry on a great tradition of caring about all the citizens of Charlotte,” Gantt said. “We’ve elected a man who since the age of 26 has been concerned about your well-being.”
Tuesday night, Cannon sounded ready to get to work for the city.
“Let’s go Charlotte!” he said.
Staff writer Cleve Wootson contributed.
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