Opinion

Jennifer Roberts reminds us why she may be the best campaigner Charlotte has ever seen

The Observer editorial board

Mayor Jennifer Roberts and NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon help reveal the amount raised at the SHARE Charlotte unveiling ceremony in December.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts and NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon help reveal the amount raised at the SHARE Charlotte unveiling ceremony in December. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

We’ve had some issues with Jennifer Roberts’ performance as Charlotte mayor. We thought she was shaky as chair of the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners, too.

But while Roberts might not be the best of office-holders, her campaigns are models for anyone who wants to run for municipal office.

The latest example: Today, in an email to supporters, Roberts’ campaign manager called on other campaigns to curtail or eliminate the use of campaign yard signs.

Said Sam Spencer: “As part of our commitment to a more sustainable Charlotte, we’ve decided not to pollute Charlotte’s roads, our right-of-ways, and our green spaces with yard signs, and we’re calling on our opponents to cut down on yard sign pollution as well.”

Here’s why that’s brilliant: Roberts doesn’t need yard signs. That’s old fogey campaigning, and Roberts runs a modern, innovative campaign that leverages social media platforms for recognition. Plus, she’s the mayor. Everyone already knows who she is, thanks in part to that same social media presence during her tenure.

So in asking for a dialing back of the yard signs, she’s making an issue out of a key strategy for her opponents – but not for her. It’s not a huge thing, but it also reminds people of her chops as a green mayor, and every time someone drives past an opponent’s sign, they might think of her, too.

About that green mayor part: It speaks to an extraordinary ability of Roberts and her campaign to put her on the favorable side of an issue – such as health care or abortion – even if she hasn’t done much on that issue (or can’t) in her capacity as mayor. That’s flat out smart politicking.

It’s another reason – along with her tirelessness in appearing at events across the city – that Roberts may be the best campaigner Charlotte has ever seen. And it’s why, despite a rocky first term, she’s a clear favorite to get a second.

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