Jennifer Roberts made history Tuesday, beating Republican Edwin Peacock to become the first Democratic woman elected mayor of Charlotte and the first person to lead both city and county governments.
Roberts won with 52.19 percent of the vote to Peacock’s 47.67 percent in final but unofficial returns.
[Click on a precinct to get more details in the above graphic]
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She’ll become Charlotte’s fifth mayor in three years and only the second woman ever elected, the first since Republican Sue Myrick in 1989. Democrat Patsy Kinsey was appointed to the office in 2013 and served five months.
The politics of personal destruction were soundly defeated by the politics of expanding opportunity and optimism.
As supporters at Jackalope Jacks chanted “Jennifer!,” Roberts said she won because of a positive and optimistic campaign.
“The politics of personal destruction were soundly defeated by the politics of expanding opportunity and optimism,” she said.
In an email to supporters, she said her victory “will send a message heard in every corner of our city… I look forward to getting right to work delivering on the promises I made during this campaign.”
Meanwhile, at Dressler’s, the mood was somber as Peacock told supporters he plans to be a “citizen’s servant” and focus on his family and business.
We felt like our stars were rising and Jennifer’s were falling this week. Obviously, they didn’t fall enough.
Still, he took aim at Roberts, saying she backed away from addressing issues such as crime, transportation and economic development. He thought that would be enough to sway voters – particularly “Reagan Democrats” – to give him their vote.
“We felt like our stars were rising and Jennifer’s were falling this week,” he said. “Obviously, they didn’t fall enough.”
Roberts previously chaired Mecklenburg County’s board of commissioners for five years. The only other person who even attempted to lead both governments was Peacock’s father, Ed, who chaired the county board in the late 1970s and later ran for mayor.
Roberts’ victory capped a marathon campaign.
She started running in the spring of 2014, not long after Democratic Mayor Patrick Cannon resigned in scandal, and after council Democrats appointed former state Sen. Dan Clodfelter to finish Cannon’s term.
Roberts led Clodfelter and two Democratic council members in the September primary and then beat Clodfelter, her neighbor, in an October runoff. Her win moves the mayor’s residence four doors down Clement Avenue in Elizabeth.
As she did in the primary, Roberts drew support from all over the city. Peacock essentially won the wedge of Republican-voting precincts in the southeast.
In TV ads and mail, he’d blasted Roberts’ tenure as county commissioner, blaming her for presiding over the county’s botched 2011 property revaluation and for what he called her poor record of leadership. Following his 2013 loss to Cannon, he also appealed to a sort of buyer’s remorse.
So did the county Republican Party. Last weekend, it sent mailers to so-called “low-propensity” voters that had prison bars superimposed over a photo of Cannon. “You didn’t vote in the 2013 election for Charlotte mayor,” it read. “Elections have consequences.”
For some voters, it worked.
“Last mayoral season we had someone committing federal crimes,” said south Charlotte voter David Carlyn. “I think it’s important that doesn’t happen again.”
Roberts defended her record but rarely strayed from message: Expanding economic “opportunity to every corner.” She also brought her campaign to virtually every corner.
“I like her broadness and openness to all people,” said east Charlotte voter Joyce Trott, 72, a retired county employee. “She has a backbone … and lots of enthusiasm.”
Fred Griffie, 76, voted for Roberts because, he said, “she’s more open to doing things for people.”
For Roberts especially, it was an expensive campaign.
A report filed last week showed she’d raised $517,000 and, with two primary elections, spent $459,000.
Peacock had raised $402,000 and spent $238,000. He entered the last two weeks of the campaign with a war chest nearly three times as large as Roberts’.
In a move unusual for a city race, Roberts made education a centerpiece of her campaign, promising more after-school programs for public school students. Education is typically not a city issue, because the city does not fund schools.
But the campaign had echoes of her first race.
Running for county commissioner in 2004, she made schools a top priority and pledged to try to arrow the gap between the rich and the poor.
Staff writers Ann Doss Helms, Jonathan McFadden and Ely Portillo contributed.
Edwin Peacock 47.67%
Jennifer Roberts 52.19%
(168 of 168 precincts reporting)
Hometown: Raleigh, grew up in Charlotte.
Family: Husband, two children.
Education: UNC-Chapel Hill, English and math major, summa cum laude; University of Toronto, master’s degree in European history; Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, master’s degree in international affairs.
Profession: Community advocate, consultant.
Political involvement: County commissioner, 2004-2012.
Civic involvement: Board president of International House; vice president of the Choir School at St. Peter’s; leadership council for United Negro College Fund; raised money for domestic violence shelter on West Boulevard.
Worth knowing: “I played four years of varsity volleyball at Chapel Hill. I was captain my senior year.”