Observer editorial board endorses Clodfelter as strongest choice for Charlotte mayor

The Observer editorial board


In April 2014, as Charlotte’s City Council considered who would best serve as interim mayor after Patrick Cannon’s fall, the Observer editorial board said Dan Clodfelter was uniquely suited to fill the role.

Now Charlotte voters will choose between keeping Clodfelter and backing Jennifer Roberts as the Democratic nominee for mayor. The winner on Tuesday will become the instant favorite against Republican Edwin Peacock in November. We again recommend Clodfelter.

As he has demonstrated repeatedly and most recently at this week’s debate, Clodfelter has a superior depth of understanding about the wide array of issues the city faces. He has the background to know the challenges, the inquisitiveness to learn more about them and the brains and vision to articulate the best path forward.

A graduate of Davidson College, Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar) and Yale Law, Clodfelter served as one of the state’s most effective senators for 15 years. In that time he both fought for Charlotte’s interests and shaped statewide policy – and earned the respect of members of both parties. For the past 18 months as mayor he has brought that same public policy acumen to local issues. He holds moderately progressive views, but is much more a pragmatist than an ideologue.

In Charlotte’s “weak mayor” government, a city manager runs the day-to-day operations and the mayor votes only to break a council tie. So his or her effectiveness stems in part from the ability to bring a sometimes-fractured council together. Clodfelter is best equipped to do that.

Clodfelter maintains relationships with the legislators he worked alongside for so long, a valuable thing in an era when the General Assembly seems to have it in for North Carolina’s large cities. In recent days and weeks, Clodfelter has helped push back against a sales-tax redistribution and against a bill gutting local ordinances. Neither became law.

His centrist approach probably makes Clodfelter a stronger candidate for Democrats against Peacock in the fall. He appeals to both liberals and moderates, and even to a few conservatives; Peacock would have a difficult time differentiating himself enough to build a winning coalition. Roberts, being more liberal, gives Peacock a better chance to peel off moderates.

While we have long supported Clodfelter, we questioned in the first primary why he had not done more to be an out-front leader. He says he saw his role, as an appointed interim mayor, as being to restore stability after the Cannon debacle. Once elected, he says, he would be freer to establish and implement his vision for the city. We hope he will do that.

Roberts has been an energetic, dedicated public servant as a county commissioner and in other community roles. She is intelligent and hard-working, and has a sincere desire to give back to Charlotte.

She has, though, been notably unspecific about policy issues and her vision for Charlotte in this campaign. And as chair of the county commissioners, she hesitated to be a forceful leader, overseeing a botched revaluation and numerous other failures at the county.

Clodfelter and Roberts each have extensive experience in public life. Clodfelter has a better chance to be an outstanding mayor.