Charlotte is purple? Not so fast

Democrat Jennifer Roberts enjoyed a 70-30 margin or better in nearly 40 percent of all precincts Tuesday.
Democrat Jennifer Roberts enjoyed a 70-30 margin or better in nearly 40 percent of all precincts Tuesday. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte must be a pretty purple city. Democrat Jennifer Roberts narrowly beat Republican Edwin Peacock in Charlotte’s mayor’s race Tuesday, 52 percent to 48 percent. It doesn’t get much closer than that, suggesting the city is closely divided between the two parties.

And perhaps it is, overall. But that aggregate picture hides a more nuanced one. Tuesday’s closely contested election actually shows how far apart some parts of Charlotte are from others. The results show that the city’s neighborhoods are deeply segregated by race and political leanings. With just a few exceptions, they are solidly blue or solidly red, not at all purple.

That will be important, and evident, as the city and county embark on conversations around diversity in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and economic development citywide. A city that is politically divided 52 to 48 might be inclined to compromise and find common ground on those kinds of racially and politically tinged issues. A city where some neighborhoods break 98-2 one way and others break 85-15 the other way is, sadly, likely to have a harder time finding that middle.

North Carolina suffers from a similar phenomenon. The state is purple overall, as seen by razor-thin presidential races the last two cycles. But that masks a state divided into largely Democratic urban areas and largely conservative rural ones. The result? Little compromise.

Look at Tuesday’s results. In a mayor’s race that ended 52-48, only nine precincts out of 168 were closer than 54-46. In other words, in 159 of 168 precincts (that’s 95 percent of them) one candidate won at least fairly easily and usually in a rout.

Roberts won 17 precincts with 90 percent or more of the vote. That’s twice as many precincts as were close. She won 65 precincts (39 percent of all precincts) with 70 percent or more of the vote.

Peacock romped nearly as much in Republican-friendly precincts. He won 29 precincts with 70 percent or more of the vote.

In only 15 precincts, or less than 10 percent of all precincts, did voters split 55-45 or closer. The most diverse one? Precinct 205, in the Reedy Creek area of east Charlotte, gave 235 votes to Peacock and 231 to Roberts, or almost exactly 50-50.

Another way to look at it: Roberts won by 3,723 votes overall. She racked up more than that margin in just eight precincts. Peacock offset that by winning by 4,000 votes in his eight best precincts.

The 52-48 final outcome portrays a closely divided city overall. But it is one divided into distinct geographic camps, which could make upcoming community conversations especially challenging. – Taylor Batten