Republican Edwin Peacock slammed Democrat Jennifer Roberts’ record as a Mecklenburg County commissioner in the final debate of their campaign for mayor of Charlotte.
Peacock criticized the former commissioners’ chair over the county’s botched 2011 property revaluation and for a property tax increase.
The two also sparred over the City Council’s hotly debated anti-discrimination ordinance, which Peacock called “a very minor issue we cannot let ourselves get distracted by.” That prompted a sharp response from Roberts.
“Discrimination,” she said, “is not a minor issue.”
The exchange came during the taping of a debate at WTVI. Sponsored by the League of Women Voters, it airs Sunday along with debates involving candidates for City Council and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.
Peacock and Roberts have no more debates scheduled before the Nov. 3 election.
Tuesday’s most heated exchange came when Roberts was asked how her leadership as mayor would differ from that on the county Board of Commissioners, which she chaired for five years through 2011.
Mrs. Roberts’ record had been clear: repeated timidity to confront challenges and to hold people accountable.
While I was county commissioner, I helped bring 5,000 jobs here during the worst recession in our history.
Roberts talked about “breaking down silos” among the city, county and school board. But Peacock quickly attacked her leadership.
“Mrs. Roberts’ record had been clear,” he said: “repeated timidity to confront challenges and to hold people accountable.”
He cited her leadership during the 2011 property revaluation. Roberts originally defended the process. But a different set of commissioners launched a new revaluation in 2012, about a year after she was ousted as chair.
“Now we’ve had $70 million returned back to the taxpayers because of her unwillingness to confront a tough problem,” Peacock said. He also accused Roberts of voting to raise county taxes during her first term and later voting for budgets that cut spending for libraries and other services.
“While I was county commissioner, I helped bring 5,000 jobs here during the worst recession in our history,” Roberts replied. “I helped raise teacher pay. I helped get new schools built. And I helped raise money to build a new domestic violence shelter on West Boulevard.”
Peacock blamed Roberts for voting for a 10.6 percent property tax hike during her first term.
“What my opponent is trying to do is distract voters from the issues at hand,” Roberts replied.
Both candidates touted their leadership styles. Roberts said she believes in collaborative leadership. Peacock called himself a “bridge-builder.”
The two also discussed this year’s unsuccessful proposal to expand the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include LGBT residents. Roberts repeated her pledge to support it.
Peacock recalled that he was the only one of 11 Republican congressional candidates in 2012 to oppose the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. While he has said he’d support some protections for LGBT residents, he called the LGBT ordinance “divisive.”
On other issues:
▪ Taxes. Peacock said he would rely on “more efficient spending” rather than raise taxes. He suggested Roberts would eventually raise property taxes to expand the streetcar. She denied that.
“I’m not in favor of raising taxes,” she said. “We need to keep our city affordable. … I would not raise taxes to continue to expand our streetcar system.”
▪ East and west sides. Both promised to revitalize the east and west sides. Roberts promised to support more after-school programs and to help women- and minority-owned businesses.
Peacock said he would re-divert money intended to improve business corridors from the streetcar.
Cash on hand
Peacock entered the final phase of the race with a nearly 3-1 cash advantage over Roberts, according to new campaign reports.
Peacock had $164,000 on hand last week compared with Roberts’ nearly $58,000.
Though Roberts has outraised Peacock overall, her war chest was depleted by two competitive primary campaigns. In September, she outpolled a competitive field in the Democratic primary. This month, she topped Mayor Dan Clodfelter in a Democratic runoff.
$164,203Peacock’s cash on hand
$57,849 Roberts’ cash on hand
$238,346 Peacock’s overall spending
$459,180 Roberts’ overall spending
With those races, she has spent a total of nearly $460,000. Peacock has spent $238,000. The reports reflect spending through Oct. 19.
Peacock’s donors include former Mayor Richard Vinroot. Roberts got a contribution from former Mayor Harvey Gantt.