Politics a natural pursuit for Edwin Peacock

Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock hugs Cecy Ramirez, wife of the late former Mecklenburg Commissioner Dan Ramirez, at the annual Mallard Creek BBQ event at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church, which feed folks' need for pulled pork, Brunswick stew and politicians.
Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock hugs Cecy Ramirez, wife of the late former Mecklenburg Commissioner Dan Ramirez, at the annual Mallard Creek BBQ event at Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church, which feed folks' need for pulled pork, Brunswick stew and politicians. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

It may have taken Edwin Peacock a while to realize he’d wind up in politics, but nobody else was surprised.

Not Loch Johnson, his favorite college professor.

Not Jason Levergood, his old skateboarding buddy.

Not Trent Merchant, his high school rival from the other party.

“It was in his blood,” Merchant said. “So I don’t think anyone was surprised when Edwin got into politics.”

Turned out politics was as natural as doing a front-side grind on his backyard half pipe.

The Charlotte Republican is making his second run for mayor. Polls show the former city council member trails Democrat Jennifer Roberts by double digits. But that did not seem to bother him.

“I have a lot of confidence in my ability,” said Peacock, a financial adviser. “I believe the race is closer.”

It was the same confidence Johnson saw at the University of Georgia when Peacock walked into a faculty-filled auditorium to speak on behalf of the student Senate.

“Seldom do you find undergraduate students able to stand up and talk to 300 professors with his sense of equanimity and self-confidence,” said Johnson, a political scientist.

Public service would seem a natural aspiration for Peacock.

His father, Ed, chaired the Mecklenburg County board, served on city council and twice ran for mayor . At 13, Edwin worked on his father’s campaign and did the same four years later for Sue Myrick, who was Charlotte’s first female mayor.

Peacock started a teen Republican club at Charlotte Country Day and later spent a decade in Washington as a mortgage adviser. He even married a woman who’d interned on Capitol Hill.

But Peacock said it was Leadership Charlotte’s Class of 2007 that put him on the path to elective politics. The group has groomed up-and-coming leaders for nearly four decades.

“No question that was the inflection point,” he said. “Leadership Charlotte was the catalyst to something I’d always had an interest in.”

Running that year for an open at-large seat, Peacock won the first of two terms on council. He lost in 2011 when Democrats swept every at-large seat. A year later, he finished third in an 11-candidate primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick.

A connector

Boyish-looking at 45, Peacock is trim and energetic. He’s an avid skateboarder, skier, mountain biker and surfer. He’s a charter member of a group called F3 (Fitness, Fellowship and Faith) and leads pre-dawn boot camps with men half his age.

Peacock’s F3 nickname is “Mighty Mighty Owlbait,” from the time he encountered a flying attacker during a run. In group lingo, he’s also known as a “headlocker,” someone who pulls in others.

“The thing he does really well is put people together,” said attorney David Redding, a group founder. “… He likes to get as many people involved as he can.”

Peacock was a social networker long before the term became popular.

“He’s always been the guy who was the connector,” said Levergood, a friend since grade school. “What seems to fuel him is this idea of having this community around him.”

Peacock keeps a database of more than 5,600 names, divided into groups based on what people have in common. There are groups devoted to Rotary Club and Sunday school, tennis and skiing, the University of Georgia and Country Day.

Last spring, he even invited Roberts (from the Public Officials group) to speak about faith and leadership to his Sunday school class.

Peacock heads alumni relations for his UGA fraternity and for Country Day’s Class of 1988. In Washington, he was president of the Capital Club, a nonpartisan social group.

“I’ve always been a believer in keeping in touch with the different chapters of my life and different people,” Peacock said.

When he took Gallup’s Strengths Finder personality test this year, he found some of his top aptitudes were in categories called Arranger and Woo, for Winning Over Others (“People strong in the Woo theme,” according to the survey, “love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over.”)

“Edwin is a guy who has a natural sales skill,” said Merchant, who in high school started a teen Democrats club in response to Peacock’s Republican group. “He enjoys getting out and glad-handing and talking to all different kinds of people.”

“It’s a natural extension of his character to communicate, to build community and to serve,” added Levergood, a friend since grade school. “He’s always had that interest … ‘I’m going to connect you to so-and-so’.”

Skeptical conservatives

To win, Peacock is trying to get the support of independents as well as members of his own party. But he has faced criticism from conservatives who consider him too moderate.

When he ran for the 9th District in 2012, he was the only Republican candidate to oppose the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“I’m not sure how much support he’d have from rank-and-file conservatives,” says Christian Hine, who headed a Charlotte tea party group. “Might they vote for him? Yes. But are they going to get out and work for him? Probably not.”

But poring over voter lists during lunch at the Diamond, Peacock was upbeat about his chances of identifying and turning out enough voters even in a heavily Democratic city.

“He’s extremely optimistic and you can sense it,” said Levergood.

Two years ago, Peacock returned to Country Day to speak to a student convocation. He talked about his struggles with developmental dyslexia, first diagnosed in high school. According to his wife Amy, “he always had to work twice as hard.”

Peacock told the students how he overcame not only his disability but other setbacks.

“In each case I had failed, success had followed,” he says. “My message to them was, ‘Don’t be fearful of making mistakes because success will follow.’ 

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

Edwin Peacock III

Age: 45.

Hometown: Charlotte.

Family: Wife, Amy; two children, ages 12 and 10.

Education: Charlotte Country Day; University of Georgia, BA in political science, 1992.

Profession: Financial adviser, Northwestern Mutual.

Political involvement: Charlotte City Council, at-large, 2007-2011. Mayoral candidate in 2013. Worked for the 1983 mayoral campaign of his father, Ed.

Civic involvement: Various boards and commissions; assistant coach, Myers Park Trinity Little League; in 2005 helped lead successful effort to win historical designation for Hermitage Court in Myers Park.

Worth knowing: Skateboarder who has a half pipe course in his backyard.