Charlotte Democrat Jennifer Roberts led the field in Tuesday’s primary but faces a runoff with Mayor Dan Clodfelter in an Oct. 6 runoff.
The winner goes on to a November contest against Edwin Peacock, who easily turned back Scott Stone in the Republican primary.
Roberts tapped a diverse base of support in winning more votes than any mayoral candidate Tuesday.
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Clodfelter edged City Council member David Howard by 643 votes for second place. Council member Michael Barnes trailed, though far ahead of newcomers Roderick Davis and DeJawon Joseph.
Roberts had 35.77 percent and Clodfelter 25.78 percent of the vote to Howard’s 23.70 percent and Barnes’13.98 percent. Forty percent was needed to avoid a runoff.
In the Republican primary, Peacock had twice as many votes as Stone.
It’s Peacock’s second bid for mayor. In 2013 he lost to Democrat Patrick Cannon, who resigned five months later in a federal corruption scandal that sent him to prison.
“This election is about Charlotte,” Peacock said in a statement. “This is about bringing everyone together to ensure all four corners of Charlotte have the opportunity to prosper.”
Roberts, 55, is trying to be the third woman to serve as mayor after Republican Sue Myrick and Democrat Patsy Kinsey. She would become the first person to serve both as mayor and as head of the Mecklenburg County board of commissioners, which she chaired for five years.
“I’m just honored to receive the most votes of any mayoral candidate tonight and I look forward to the runoff,” Roberts said Tuesday night. “I think my message of bringing opportunity to all corners of our city through good schools and good jobs has resonated with Charlotte families.”
Her election would give Charlotte its fifth mayor in little more than two years.
But Clodfelter, 65, said he feels “very well-positioned for a runoff.”
“We were sort of starting from scratch, not being active locally here for 15 years,” said the former state senator. “I feel really, really good about the support we got from the community. We ran strong against three other candidates who probably had much better name recognition.”
In a city where African-Americans make up 64 percent of the vote, Roberts and Clodfelter, who are white, cut into the black vote. Roberts even carried some African-American precincts. One was Precinct 16 at Stonewall AME church.
There, one Roberts voter was Angela Waters, a retired school librarian.
“I’ve watched her over the years,” she said of Roberts, adding, “I think it’s time for Charlotte to elect a lady mayor.”
It was Charlotte’s most expensive primary, with candidates raising nearly $1.3 million. But turnout, as expected, was low – 8.73 percent. At some precincts, campaign workers and candidates swarmed scarce voters with final pitches for support.
It was even lower in the Republican contest. In the end Peacock, 45, who served four years on council, had wider name recognition and a bigger war chest than Stone, an engineer making his second run in four years.
Roberts carried wide swaths of east and southeast Charlotte and won some westside precincts. Clodfelter’s strength was concentrated in south central Charlotte and Howard carried precincts in the north and southwest.
Howard, 45, is finishing his third at-large term on City Council. He’s vice president of the Housing Partnership, a nonprofit that develops affordable housing, and a former chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission.
Barnes, 44, has served five terms on council. He’s currently mayor pro tem.
The Democratic race elicited few policy differences and seemed more about biography and style than issues. The candidates generally agreed on the streetcar and the need for regional solutions to transportation problems.
Roberts and Howard emphasized their Charlotte roots. Howard, who grew up on the westside and went on to prosper, often compared his own story with the city’s. “I am Charlotte’s story,” he told audiences. “I want to make sure everybody has the opportunities for success I had.”
“I like his credentials,” said west side voter Gwen McCarroll, a retired teacher. “He can relate to people more or less low income because he came up in that environment.”
The Republican contest was more contentious.
Peacock railed at Stone for distorting his record on the streetcar. They also clashed over the Charlotte airport and even their relevant business experience.
When he was a council member, Peacock was opposed to the streetcar and took several votes against the project in 2009. But Stone criticized him for voting in favor of a city budget that included $8 million for the project.
“I know you could make a political statement to create theater and drama,” Peacock said at one debate. “You are misrepresenting my record. You don’t understand the budget and how it works.”
Another time, Stone said the city should “broker a deal with the legislature” over the airport. The General Assembly in 2013 transferred control from the city to a commission. After a legal battle, the issue remains in limbo while the Federal Aviation Administration decides ultimate control.
For Roberts and Clodfelter, the next campaign starts Wednesday.
Michael Barnes 13.98%
Dan Clodfelter 25.78%
Roderick Davis 0.48%
David Howard 23.70%
DeJawon Joseph 0.28%
Jennifer Roberts 35.77%
Edwin Peacock III 66.17%
Scott Stone 33.83%
(100 percent of precincts reporting)
The top two Democratic finishers likely meet in an Oct. 6 runoff.