Charlotte voters’ decision next week to elect Patrick Cannon or Edwin Peacock is momentous: It will be just the second time in 18 years that Charlotte has elected a new mayor.
We’ve heard a lot of hand-wringing around town from voters who aren’t excited about either candidate, and we empathize. Cannon, a Democrat, has not earned the trust of many of his colleagues after nearly two decades in city government and Peacock, a Republican, can come across as lacking gravitas.
We try to be optimists, though, and believe that each candidate has a deep understanding of city government and has the potential to be a fine mayor.
We recommend Edwin Peacock. He is sincere in his commitment to give of himself through public service. We have faith in his integrity and confidence in his intention to make decisions based on what’s best for the city, not just for himself.
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Peacock is a throwback to the politics of yesteryear, when Democrats and Republicans had their differences on policy yet chose not to emphasize those differences but to work through them. It’s the brand of politics this city was built on and the kind that’s needed to ensure its continued health.
In both tone and substance, Peacock has demonstrated his centrist stripes over the years. He stood out as the only moderate in a 10-person field for the 9th Congressional District Republican primary last year. He opposed Amendment One, the initiative that codified North Carolina’s gay marriage ban into its constitution. He supports mass transit, higher teacher pay and was a leading defender of the environment during his time on the City Council.
At the same time he is a fiscal conservative. As mayor, he would be a moderating influence on a heavily Democratic City Council, bringing some protection to taxpayers while still recognizing the need to invest in the city’s future.
There’s a real question these days around whether a moderate Republican can withstand the pressure from the party’s extremely conservative members who increasingly dominate the conversation at the state and national levels. Peacock’s campaigning with Lt. Gov. Dan Forest last week feeds concern about his ability to remain independent.
But Peacock, with little statutory power, would be outnumbered by the council and so would have to work in a bipartisan fashion to get anything done. He recognizes that, and has the ability to find the common ground that will move the city forward.
Cannon, the favorite in this race, is a hard worker who would have little learning curve after two decades in office. But the mayor’s effectiveness in Charlotte’s system hinges on building coalitions and trustful relationships with City Council members and city staff. Cannon has struggled to build such relationships in many instances over the years, including at times with members of his own party.
We disagreed with his unquestioning support of the Panthers, the Knights and, streetcar aside, the city’s Capital Investment Plan. The city needs a more analytical critique of such important and expensive projects.
We recommend Peacock, hopeful that he rides his integrity and centrism to a successful term. He will need to both ferociously stand by his principles over politics and quickly articulate precisely what he wants his policy legacy to be.