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Finally at top, Cannon must find ways to be effective

Patrick Cannon completed his rise from Charlotte’s public housing to the 15th floor of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Tuesday, as Democrats again showed their political muscle in what was once a two-party city. Finally in possession of the mayor’s gavel he has long eyed, Cannon now has to show that he can use it to make Charlotte a stronger place.

Cannon’s edging of Republican Edwin Peacock, along with Democrats’ sweep of nine of 11 City Council seats, solidified a trend of Democratic dominance that has been evident since 2009. Democrats won all four at-large seats and all of the district seats except the two that are drawn to be safe for Republicans.

So perhaps little has changed at City Hall: A Democratic mayor presides over a 9-2 Democratic City Council. But Cannon is not former Mayor Anthony Foxx, and he intends to put his own stamp on the city and its government. It’s not clear to us what that stamp will be.

Cannon’s trajectory is impressive by any measure. With his father murdered when Patrick was 5, Cannon grew up in public housing with a single mother. Despite those humble beginnings, he was elected to the City Council in 1993 at age 26 and has built a successful business that oversees 25,000 parking spaces. He won citywide elections four times before ascending to the corner office Tuesday.

While he has enjoyed success with voters, Cannon’s record with fellow council members is less consistent. Several, including some in his own party over the years, have withheld their full trust of him. Former Mayor Harvey Gantt broke his usual silence in Democratic primaries to endorse Cannon’s opponent.

That suggests that Cannon has a significant challenge before him: Steering a council and city staff effectively despite holding very little statutory authority and finite personal goodwill from colleagues. He’ll need to build new relationships to lead the council toward investing wisely in the city while holding the line on taxes.

While many expected Cannon to win easily, Peacock kept it close. We talked with left-leaning voters who supported Peacock, unsettled by Cannon’s saying two things in the last week of the campaign that were not true. Those appear to be part of a pattern: In 2009, Cannon acknowledged that voters “were misled about the truth” on why he hadn’t run for mayor in 2005. We hope Cannon will take the closeness of Tuesday’s race as a sign that voters expect nothing but the utmost integrity from their mayor.

Lyles wins big

Cannon will be working with a City Council that is as strong as or stronger than the current one. At-large Democrat Vi Alexander Lyles made a strong showing in her first bid for elected office, finishing second behind Michael Barnes among nine candidates. We hope she won’t hesitate to be a leader on the new council on both budget matters and mature governance. She is one of five new council members and the other four show great promise as well.

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