Elections

In final month, Edwin Peacock will try and steer debate in Charlotte mayoral race

Jennifer Roberts, who won the Democratic mayoral runoff Tuesday, has had a consistent theme while running for Charlotte mayor: Saying she is committed to increasing economic opportunity and helping schools.

She also made direct appeals to female voters, often mentioning she was a mother and using the nationwide controversy over Planned Parenthood to generate support and donations.

Her opponent in the general election, Republican Edwin Peacock, will try and shift the debate to issues he believes can appeal to unaffiliated voters: crime, taxes and opposition to the streetcar.

Winning won’t be easy.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the city, and Democratic candidates have won the last three mayoral elections and have swept the four City Council at-large seats in the last two years.

Roberts won Tuesday with support across the city, especially in African-American precincts that supported her in the first primary vote in September.

Peacock said Tuesday that part of his strategy is trying to reach infrequent Republican voters who often sit out municipal elections.

He is trying to use the Patrick Cannon corruption scandal as a reason for Republicans to show up at the polls.

“When I ask them if they voted in 2013 (when Peacock lost to Patrick Cannon), and they said, ‘No, I didn’t,’ ” Peacock said. “And then they tell that was a mistake.”

Here are issues he’ll focus on in coming weeks, and where Roberts stands:

Crime

This has been a nonissue in recent city elections, as violent crime in Charlotte dropped.

During the Democratic primary, the four prominent candidates mostly addressed public safety through the lens of the Randall “Wes” Kerrick trial and what they said was the need for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to balance law enforcement with respecting the rights of minorities.

In numerous forums, Roberts would answer questions about police by saying: “Black lives matter.”

Over Labor Day weekend, 12 people were shot in Charlotte, and five of those people were killed. Violent crime, and homicide, is up compared with 2014.

Last week, Peacock sent out a news release announcing he would, as mayor, form a commission to study ways to lower crime, including drug and human trafficking.

He accused the Democratic City Council’s public safety committee of focusing on issues that he said weren’t key to reducing crime, such as a predatory towing ordinance and regulations for food trucks.

Roberts is a former Mecklenburg County commissioner and didn’t serve on the City Council when those issues were discussed. She said Tuesday night she put in place programs as commissioner that “reduced the jail population and lowered crime.”

“We did it then, we can do it again,” she said,

Taxes

The City Council has raised taxes twice in the last three years. In 2013, it raised taxes to pay for a capital spending program. This year, it raised the property tax rate to help cover a budget shortfall.

Roberts didn’t vote for those tax increases, but Peacock will try and link the tax hikes to the Democratic Party in general.

Roberts can argue that she has held the line on taxes as a commissioner.

In 2005, her first year on the commission, Roberts voted for a 10.6 percent tax increase. After that, she voted for five budgets that kept the tax rate the same.

Some of those budgets came after the recession, which caused the county to reduce services, including closing libraries.

Roberts said during the runoff that she would have voted against the two city budgets with tax increases, saying the tax hikes hadn’t been fully vetted by voters. Incumbent Mayor Dan Clodfelter said that position was unrealistic.

Peacock has also criticized the streetcar, a project that Roberts supports.

But Roberts has appeared wary of fully embracing the project. She didn’t attend the opening ceremony in July for the streetcar, and during a September debate, she was the only of the four prominent Democrats who hadn’t ridden it yet.

Meanwhile, the streetcar has so far exceeded ridership projections, a fact that could lessen its impact in next month’s election.

Property revaluation

During the runoff, Clodfelter’s campaign criticized how Roberts handled the 2011 property tax revaluation as a commissioner. It blamed the city’s budget shortfall this year on the revaluation.

As complaints flooded into the county about new property values five years ago, Roberts defended the revaluation and defended county staff. The county eventually had to hire a new appraiser and re-do the assessment.

“She has shown a failure to address problems,” Peacock said.

During the campaign, Roberts has said the revaluation wasn’t handled perfectly and she wishes the county had been more transparent.

A Roberts campaign manager said last week that Roberts “showed real leadership by listening to the community's concerns, responding quickly, and leading the effort to get more than $70 million dollars returned to taxpayers.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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