On election night at BlackFinn Restaurant, where John Lassiter had
scheduled a victory celebration, two of his campaign strategists
huddled in a corner staring into the monitor of a laptop computer.
the screen was an electoral map of Charlotte, each precinct displayed in either
red or blue. About a dozen precincts had not yet reported.
“It’s over,” one of the strategists said.
here,” he explained, dragging a finger across a swath of blue that
stretched through some of Charlotte’s most heavily populated precincts.
“There aren’t enough votes down here (he pointed to a wedge of red in
the southern part of Mecklenburg) to make up the difference.”
“Charlotte will be Democrat for the next 20 years,” the strategist concluded, his eyes never leaving the monitor.
Tuesday’s election proved anything, it showed just how much Charlotte
has changed. Even a moderate Republican like Lassiter, who enjoyed some
strong ties in parts of the black community, could not muster enough
votes to slow the Big D machine.
In fact, outgoing Mayor Pat McCrory may well be Charlotte’s last “white” leader.
When I use the word “white,” please note, I’m not talking race alone.
I mean is this: Any candidate from either party who hopes to be elected
mayor going forward must recognize – and embrace – the way our city has
changed. We are darker and more ethnically diverse. We’ve come from
places like Washington, Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland.
own detriment, the Republican party has done nothing to embrace
these voters. For many blacks and Latinos, the GOP is most closely
chained to the extreme right-wing politics of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn
Beck – racism thinly veiled.
The Charlotte Observer noted this
week that, at 35 percent, the African American electorate is now a
third larger than it was when Harvey Gantt was first elected in 1983.
And in today’s paper, the Observer found that 30 of the predominantly white and
racially mixed precincts that helped put Republican McCrory in office for seven
straight terms this year broke for Anthony Foxx, the Democrat.
was no fluke. Those precincts will be voting Democratic for many years to
come, assuming the party nominates credible candidates.
enjoyed good fortune. He was first elected at a time when Charlotte was less
diverse. He also was blessed with a thriving economy and, once
in office, the lure of incumbency. We all felt pride each time a new
office tower or entertainment complex dotted the uptown landscape.
Re-electing McCrory was easy for independents and swing voters, especially when he faced weak and underfunded Democrats.
McCrory also had a rocky relationship with minority voters. He was
prone to remarks that some found racially insensitive. And perhaps
worst of all, he never seemed to care about any of this.
Tomorrow’s successful candidate will be different.
I doubt that a young McCrory could be elected in the Qcity today.