Opinion

The story behind - and impact of - David Howard’s surprise endorsement of Dan Clodfelter

Moderator Steve Crump asks a question of Democratic mayoral candidates including Michael Barnes, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, David Howard, Jennifer Roberts during The Charlotte Observer/WBTV mayoral debate this month.
Moderator Steve Crump asks a question of Democratic mayoral candidates including Michael Barnes, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, David Howard, Jennifer Roberts during The Charlotte Observer/WBTV mayoral debate this month. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

City councilman David Howard, who finished a close third in the Democratic primary for Charlotte mayor, is endorsing the second-place finisher, Dan Clodfelter, for next Tuesday’s runoff. Howard will make the announcement Monday at a news conference with Clodfelter.

Howard came to the decision Friday, he told the Observer editorial board. He hadn’t necessarily planned on making an endorsement, but he’d received calls from supporters who wanted his thoughts on the runoff between Clodfelter and first-place finisher Jennifer Roberts.

The endorsement comes as a bit of a surprise. Howard was critical of Clodfelter for deciding to run for mayor after telling Howard he would not. Clodfelter had been appointed mayor in 2014 by the Charlotte City Council after Patrick Cannon’s arrest and resignation. Both Howard and mayor pro tem Michael Barnes say Clodfelter assured them then he wouldn’t run in 2015 if he were appointed by the council. Clodfelter says that’s not the case.

The editorial board endorsed Howard in the primary because of his thoughtful, thorough approach to issues on the council. True to character, Howard met with Roberts and Clodfelter last week to “interview” them about their plans as mayor. Clodfelter, according to Howard, offered plans and policy thoughts with more precision and depth, especially on an issue dear to Howard – Charlotte’s potential as a technology and mobile hub.

Howard admits there are still some lingering “trust issues” with Clodfelter because of the disputed promise not to run for mayor. But, says Howard, Clodfelter’s vision and plans for Charlotte clearly align with what he believes Charlotte can become in the near and distant future.

Will the endorsement matter? It’ll move the needle some, given that Howard captured almost a quarter of the primary vote, including a good chunk of the African-American vote. But history shows that voters don’t necessarily move the direction their former candidate points them with an endorsement such as this.

At the least, with a little more than a week to go before the runoff, Howard gives Clodfelter a big moment, some good press, and perhaps a little momentum.

Down 10 points after primary day, he’ll need it.

Peter St. Onge

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