Roberts, Peacock lead Charlotte mayoral races

By Jim Morrill
Charlotte Observer

Democrat Jennifer Roberts and Republican Edwin Peacock III hold solid leads in their mayoral primaries a week before the start of early voting, according to a Charlotte Observer Poll.

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Roberts has the support of 39 percent of likely Democratic voters, one point shy of what she would need to avoid a runoff.

The poll showed incumbent Dan Clodfelter with 21 percent, City Council member Michael Barnes with 14 percent and council member David Howard with 9 percent. Fifteen percent of voters were undecided.

In the Republican contest, Peacock, a former council member, led Scott Stone 44 percent to 26 percent. But 30 percent of likely GOP voters said they were undecided.

“It’s positive affirmation of a broad-based campaign for us and we’re pleased,” said Peacock. “But we don’t stop working because of one poll.”

Roberts said the poll “confirms what I’ve been hearing when I’m out canvassing and knocking on doors.”

“That means my message of strong schools and creating jobs is resonating with Charlotte families,” she said.

The poll surveyed 816 likely Democratic primary voters and 538 likely GOP primary voters. The margin of sampling error for Democrats is 3.4 percentage points. For Republicans, it’s 4.2 percentage points.

Voters in North Carolina’s largest city go to the polls on Sept. 15. Early voting starts Thursday. The candidates appear in a debate Wednesday.

In a multicandidate race, the winner must capture at least 40 percent of the vote. If nobody reaches that threshold, the second-place finisher can call for a runoff, which would be Oct. 6.

Roberts ahead on black vote

Among Democrats, Roberts led the field in every corner of the city. She had more support from men and more from women. She had the support of 37 percent of black voters, almost twice as much as anybody else.

While she and Clodfelter together got almost half of the voter support, the two African-American candidates each got just 4 percent of the white vote, according to the poll.

Roberts gets support from African-American Democrats such as Patsy Burkins, who runs the nonprofit Charlotte Community Services Association.

“I think this is the time for a female president and a female mayor,” said Burkins. “The women from where I sit are pretty strong for Jennifer.”

Clodfelter spokeswoman Maria Smithson questioned the methodology of the automated poll, in which participants respond to recorded questions.

“I don’t think those numbers reflect what we’re seeing on the ground,” she said. “I have every confidence that Mayor Clodfelter is much closer to Jennifer than that poll reflects.”

Barnes said he’s confident. “I’m excited about the work I’ve done, and I look forward to the election,” he said.

Howard was endorsed Friday by Charlotte’s Black Political Caucus. Campaign manager Trevor Rodgers pointed out that since his candidate entered the race in June, he has outraised other Democrats, contacted more than 25,000 voters and won the endorsement of two former mayors, Harvey Gantt and Eddie Knox.

“Back in 2009, a poll showed us in seventh place for (four) City Council at-large (seats), and we won,” Rodgers said.

Roberts had raised $335,000 through early August, more than any mayoral candidate. Clodfelter had raised $220,000 and Howard, $190,000. Barnes had raised $25,000.

Democrats Roderick Davis and DeJawon Joseph are also on the primary ballot.

The Republican primary features two men who’ve run for mayor before. Peacock, who served two terms on council, lost the 2013 race to Democrat Patrick Cannon. Stone lost in 2011 to Democrat Anthony Foxx.

The poll showed Peacock leading Stone among men and women. He enjoyed his strongest support in south and north Charlotte. Peacock has raised $204,000 to Stone’s $107,000.

“Given the high number of undecideds in the race, it shows that people are just now starting to pay attention,” Stone said. “And it shows that Peacock is vulnerable, given that he’s run for office so many more times than I have.”

Partisan divide on issues

The Observer also polled on issues that have come up at forums and other campaign events. The results showed that on most, voters were divided along partisan lines.

▪ Forty-six percent of all likely Charlotte voters oppose plans to extend the streetcar, which opened its first segment this summer, compared with 40 percent who support a planned extension. Fourteen percent were undecided.

While 51 percent of Democrats support the streetcar expansion, 68 percent of Republicans opposed it.

▪ Fifty-one percent of all voters said they favor expanding the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include gays, lesbians and transgender people.

Republicans oppose the idea nearly 2-1. Democrats support it almost 3-1.

▪ Traffic barely edged crime and the economy as the most pressing issue facing the city among all voters.

Among Democrats, affordable housing also ranked high. Only 4 percent of Republicans cited it as a problem.

▪ Nearly 6 in 10 – 58 percent – of voters would raise the pay of all city employees to at least $15 an hour.

Three out of 4 Democrats support it. Most Republicans oppose it.

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