Editorials

Lyles delivers final dagger to GOP’s hopes

The Observer editorial board

Democrat Vi Lyles greets a voter Tuesday morning. She becomes Charlotte’s first black female mayor.
Democrat Vi Lyles greets a voter Tuesday morning. She becomes Charlotte’s first black female mayor. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

For better or worse – and we think there are elements of both – Tuesday’s election results snuff out Republicans’ last ember of hope that Charlotte is something other than a solidly Democratic town.

Democrats rolled yet again, with Vi Lyles winning the mayor’s race and Democrats sweeping the four at-large City Council seats to maintain their 9-2 stranglehold. On the school board, which is officially nonpartisan, seven of nine members will lean more left than right.

This is, in the main, an unhealthy thing for Charlotte. Nations, states, cities, companies – all organizations, really – benefit from a competition of ideas. Extremes are reined in and policies and solutions are sharpened to produce better outcomes. Perspectives are broadened, and arguments are tested and reshaped.

In Charlotte, there has been – and likely will continue to be – little of that give-and-take in local government. Of the 30 elected officials on the City Council, school board and Mecklenburg board of commissioners, 23 will now be Democrat or lean that way and seven will be Republican.

While that makes us worry about taxpayers’ pocketbooks, and too much groupthink, we certainly value Democrats’ progressive stances on many issues. And we congratulate Lyles, who becomes Charlotte’s first black female mayor. She has the background, the heart and the temperament to lead the important conversations this city has to have right now.

Democrats have long held majorities in Charlotte. But going into Tuesday, Republicans had real hope that Kenny Smith would become the city’s first GOP mayor since Pat McCrory left the office in 2009.

He had more money than Lyles. He ran a smart campaign. He talked fluently about issues facing Charlotte and its future. He was running against a candidate who failed to truly excite many even in her own party. And he faced an electorate weary from two years of shaky Democratic leadership.

All that wasn’t enough to overcome a fundamentally left-leaning city. Registered Republicans now make up only 21 percent of registered voters.

Political winds inevitably shift over time, but combine Smith’s mayoral loss with Edwin Peacock’s in 2013 and 2015 and John Lassiter’s in 2009 (along with Scott Stone’s in 2011), and it’s evident that Democrats call the shots around here and are likely to do so for years to come.

That can be a good thing, if they wield their power judiciously. We endorsed several of Tuesday’s winners because we believe their vision for Charlotte is the right one. They should compassionately and shrewdly focus on economic opportunity, safe neighborhoods, strong schools and affordable housing – for and across all of Charlotte and Mecklenburg. They will also have to do their best to work with Republicans in the state legislature – and combat them as required.

Tuesday’s outcome was an old story, but it produced a lot of new faces. In addition to a new mayor, five new council members will take seats at the dais, as will three new school board members. We hope they will confidently apply their new perspectives to the challenges we face.

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