Democrat Jennifer Roberts holds a 15 percentage-point lead over Republican Edwin Peacock in the Charlotte mayor’s race two weeks before the election, according to a new Charlotte Observer poll.
Roberts has the support of 54 percent of voters who indicated they were likely to vote in the mayor’s race, compared with 39 percent for Peacock, the poll showed. Seven percent are undecided.
Peacock, a former City Council member, lost the mayor’s race two years ago by 6 percentage points to Democrat Patrick Cannon. Five months later, Cannon was arrested on federal corruption charges.
Cannon’s arrest has been a focal point for Peacock in 2015. He launched his campaign with a cartoon video of Cannon in the mayor’s office surrounded by sacks of money – a reference to the former mayor accepting a briefcase with $20,000 in cash from federal agents.
Peacock is using the arrest to implore more people to vote. He is making a push to get infrequent Republican and independent voters to the polls by reminding them of the consequences of not voting two years ago.
But the poll results suggested that the scandal was not a big issue. When asked whether Cannon’s arrest would influence their vote, 84 percent of the respondents said no.
Roberts announced she would run for mayor in May of 2014, two months after Cannon’s arrest. Not only has she been campaigning longer than any candidate, her opponents in the Democratic primary have said Roberts was effective at reaching out to voters by attending numerous forums, neighborhood meetings and other events.
Her main campaign themes are expanding economic opportunity and improving schools.
Peacock leads among white voters, 51 percent to 42 percent, according to the poll. But Roberts overcomes that advantage with a large lead among minorities, with 79 percent of the black vote and 63 percent of the Hispanic vote, the poll showed.
She also has a wide lead among female voters, 59 percent to 34 percent.
“I like her stand on education, and I like that she’s a woman,” said Queen Byrd, an African-American voter who lives in Clanton Park in west Charlotte. “We have had a lot of men. It’s time for a woman.”
“I sense she’s a people person,” said Sharon Edwards, a white voter who lives in Raintree in south Charlotte and supports Roberts. “We need to be looking to bringing people together and figuring out how we can all live together. It doesn’t have anything to do with politics. It’s just me listening to two of them, and I just feel comfortable with her.”
Edwards said she’s most concerned that the new apartment boom will price people out of Charlotte.
The Observer’s poll surveyed 1,324 likely voters last week, with a margin of sampling error of 2.7 percent.
The Roberts campaign said Friday that the poll confirms an internal poll, which showed Roberts had a 17-point lead. A campaign representative said Roberts is “thrilled” that her message of “good jobs and good schools” is resonating with voters.
“I will work hard to make sure we continue the conversation with voters in every corner of our city,” Roberts said in a statement.
Peacock’s campaign has pointed to its internal poll, which shows the race tied with both at 40 percent.
“We found that the more voters learn about Jennifer Roberts’ record of taxing and spending, the less likely they are to vote for her,” said Peacock campaign spokesman Mark Knoop.
“This race will be a clear choice for voters between more of the same wasteful spending on projects like the street car and more tax increases, or moving Charlotte in the direction of smart investment in our city's future.”
Issues facing city
City Council members in 2016 are likely to discuss ways to spread low-income housing throughout the city, especially to affluent areas. An existing city program intended to encourage developers to build affordable housing in upscale areas has failed so far.
In the Observer poll, 46 percent of respondents said they would oppose any requirement to mandate that developers include affordable housing in all projects, no matter the location. Forty-two percent said they support that idea.
Voters also were asked whether they believe the city’s zoning laws favor residents or businesses. Fifty-six percent said the zoning laws favor the needs of businesses, while 26 percent said the zoning laws strike the right balance. Six percent said the laws favor residents.
Laura Fricano, a white voter who lives near the Arboretum, voted for Peacock’s opponent, business executive Scott Stone, in the primary. Fricano said she supported Stone because he was adamant about opposing government-subsidized housing in south Charlotte, while Peacock said he would be open to the idea.
“But as a Republican, I will vote for him now,” she said.
Fricano said she is generally pleased with the state of the city, especially the city’s investment in public transportation, bike lanes and sidewalks.
Fricano said she believes Peacock is running an aggressive campaign, and she has been contacted personally by Peacock’s father, a mayoral candidate a generation ago. But Fricano also knows a number of Republican friends who are not talking about the race and may not vote.
“Most people are lackadaisical,” she said. “We just had low turnout (in the primary), and it’s a shame. Peacock has done a great job campaigning.”
In the primary, 9 percent of registered voters participated.
Education, other issues
Roberts has made improving public schools the focus of her campaign. She has not, however, spoken in detail about what she would like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to do to make schools more diverse. One of her ideas is to create a clearinghouse to give parents information about after-care choices available for students.
Fifty-five percent of voters polled said being able to send their children to the school closest to their home was important, while 39 percent said it was more important to have diverse schools across the city.
Black and white voters saw that issue differently. Sixty-five percent of white voters polled said the neighborhood school option was most important, while 58 percent of black voters said having diversity across the city was most important.
Peacock has said he would like to create an affordable-housing program for teachers.
The Observer also asked voters whom they would support in the governor’s race between Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and Democrat Roy Cooper.
The Charlotte voters overwhelmingly backed Cooper, 53 percent to 35 percent, with 11 percent undecided.
Charlotte is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, with just under half of registered voters Democrats. The next largest group is people who are unaffiliated with any party, at 28 percent.
In 2012, McCrory defeated Democrat Walter Dalton statewide, carrying 55 percent of the overall vote.
He narrowly defeated Dalton in his home county of Mecklenburg, by less than 1 percentage point. Mecklenburg as a whole is more Republican than Charlotte, with 45 percent of registered voters Democrats, 25 percent Republican and 28 percent unaffiliated.
About the poll
The Observer Poll was conducted by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling on Oct. 13-14. The survey was of 1,324 likely voters. The makeup of the survey was 49 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republican and 21 percent independent voters. Whites were 61 percent, blacks were 31 percent, and Hispanic voters were 2 percent. The margin of sampling error is 2.7 percent.
You’re invited: Roberts and Peacock to square off in Observer/WBTV debate
It’s down to two for Charlotte mayor. Who’s earning your vote? You’re invited as candidates Jennifer Roberts and Edwin Peacock answer key questions at The Charlotte Observer/WBTV debate, sponsored by Duke Energy, at McGlohon Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 21.
The two will face a panel of journalists: Eric Frazier of the Charlotte Observer, Keith Larson of WBT radio and Katie Toussaint of CharlotteFive.com.
WBTV anchor Jamie Boll will moderate, and anchor Brigida Mack will field audience questions. WBTV will air the debate live on CharlotteObserver.com, WBTV.com and on Bounce, Channel 1255 on Time Warner Cable.
Before the 7:30 p.m. debate start, you’re also invited to a meet-the-candidates reception hosted by Duke Energy in the Spirit Square atrium. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and ask Peacock and Roberts your own questions. Reception begins at 6:15 p.m.
Admission is free, but you are asked to register in advance at http://cltmayor.com. We look forward to seeing you. Can’t make it? Tweet your questions to us at #cltdebate.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 21
Time: 6:15 p.m. meet-the-candidates reception; 7:30 p.m. debate
Where: McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. in Spirit Square.
Parking: Seventh Street Station, between N. College and N. Brevard streets. $5 cost with validation from Spirit Square.
Questions: Jen Rothacker, Observer innovations editor, email@example.com