At last, the 2007 Mecklenburg sheriff’s race has ended.
Just as some U.S. historians have argued that the Civil War didn’t
truly end until passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I would argue that
Mecklenburg County’s divisive process to replace former Sheriff Jim
Pendergraph didn’t really end until Tuesday’s primary – when former
supporters of state Rep. Nick Mackey effectively voted him out of
How are the two related?
In lots of ways.
For starters, I have never believed that Mackey was the rational
choice of District 99 voters. His election to the state House in 2008
was nothing more than a protest vote against the questionable way in
which, the previous year, Mackey was denied the Mecklenburg sheriff’s
office after winning a special Democratic caucus. (His victory over Chip Bailey,
Pendergraph’s hand-picked successor, was overturned
after party officials ruled that Mackey had improperly organized local
Because of our history, we as African Americans have evolved senses
that are especially keen to perceived slights and discrimination – even
when the aggrieved party, some might say, is less than deserving.
Angry over how the Democratic caucus was overturned, blacks in
Mackey’s district voted in large numbers to get even: They sent him to Raleigh.
As for Mackey himself, his past finally caught up with him — in the
voting booth, of all places.
Some Mackey supporters, no doubt, will blame the N.C. Bar for their
candidate’s defeat. Less than 24 hours before the vote, the Bar
announced that it was suspending Mackey’s law license for three years
for conduct that included “acts of dishonesty.”
Dirty pool? You bet. But did the state Bar really tell voters
anything about Mackey that they didn’t know in ’08? Of course not.
I am convinced that, this year, some who supported Mackey in his
first run for the state House simply grew tired of the drip-drip-drip of
his odd behavior — the complaints against him for unpaid bills,
questionable business practices, late tax filings, allegations of
misconduct as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer and, finally, the
Perhaps most offensive to some was Mackey’s apparent decision to
cobble together a field of rag-tag candidates to run against some of the
black community’s most well-known leaders – state Sen. Malcolm Graham
and state Rep Beverly Earle – people he felt did not fully support his
efforts to become sheriff.
Mackey denied having a hand in encouraging those candidates, but the
evidence was suggestive. All of those candidates were beaten badly in
Mackey also failed in his personal demeanor. He was surly with the
press and distant in a crowd. He possessed none of the charm that some
successful pols use to paper over their flaws and shortcoming.
Oddly enough, Mackey as an elected official was far more effective. I
listened to some of the pre-primary debate between him and Rodney
Moore, the Charlotte businessman who thumped Mackey 62 percent to 38
percent in Tuesday’s primary. As for Mackey’s knowledge of the issues
and his ability to articulate a vision, I found him to be more than
qualified. While in Raleigh, he introduced some good legislation.
In the end, however, it all came down to character. Mackey’s record
in office became secondary to the embarrassing antics of his personal
life. And so, being satisfied with the protest votes they cast in ’08,
the people of District 99 on Tuesday decided, mercifully, that they had
punished us all enough.