South Charlotte: Tree-lined. Affluent.
Ricetown is a pretend municipality that is the creation of David Michael Rice, who ran as a Republican in Tuesday’s election for at-large City Council. In the past, he has referred to himself as “Lord God King.” His campaign committee this year was “Lord God Ricetown XV.”
Rice raised no money and attended few campaign events. The local Republican party did not endorse him.
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But in 60 south Charlotte precincts won by Republican Edwin Peacock, the so-called “wedge” from South Boulevard to Monroe Road, Rice did pretty well. In fact, in those precincts he finished third in voting, and would have been elected as an at-large member if not for the rest of the city.
In those precincts, Republican John Powell was first with 24,164 votes. Powell narrowly missed out on the fourth and final at-large seat.
Pablo Carvajal, a Republican, was second there with 19,942 votes. Citywide, he finished sixth out of seven candidates. Rice was third with 17,612 votes. He was last in the city.
Julie Eiselt, a Myers Park Democrat, was fourth with 17,305 votes –3407 votes behind Rice. Eiselt finished first in the at-large race. The Democrats won the other three at-large seats.
Republican council member Kenny Smith, who won re-election in District 6, said a number of voters Tuesday at precincts asked him “who the third Republican was.”
Rice’s strong showing in south Charlotte will be fodder in the debate about low-information voters picking party over the person.
Democrats, of course, also seek out party affiliation in the voting booth. In South Carolina five years ago, Democratic primary voters made a puzzling choice when they picked Alvin Greene for their Senate candidate over a judge and former state legislator. Greene had no website, no money and no detailed platform.
Democrats have been ripped for straight-ticket voting that the General Assembly outlawed it, and now everyone has to hunt for either a “D” or an “R.”
But Rice’s showing is also a reflection on the Republican Party’s difficulty in fielding candidates.
Democrats have swept the four at-large seats in 2011, 2013 and now 2015. This year, the Republicans didn’t even field a full slate of four candidates.
Powell campaigned for roughly two years, and lobbied for – and won – and endorsement from the Black Political Caucus. He missed winning a seat by 256 votes.
Carvajal announced he was running about six months ago. The last candidate was Rice.
The Republicans who lost citywide in 2011 and 2013 didn’t run again.
Powell said he doesn’t think the party will have difficulty in fielding candidates for 2017. He said his near-victory will encourage others to run in two years.
“Will we have 12 people running at-large? I doubt it,” he said. “I think it did hurt a little because we didn’t have a full ticket. But my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. People are asking, ‘How can I help?’ We have a lot of strong people.”
He added: “You can’t get into it six months before the race. You have to get into it now. You have to be committed.”
Mark Frietch, a Republican, ran and lost for a council at-large seat two years ago. He decided against running again in 2015, though he is serving on a city board that regulates taxis and limousines.
“For me, 2013 was an impulse decision,” he said. “(Powell) did a great job of coming across as someone who isn’t just about party politics. He got involved early. There are some lessons we have learned from that.”
Database editor Gavin Off contributed.