Who will be Charlotte's next mayor?

Charlotte mayoral candidates

The candidates running for mayor in Charlotte are campaigning hard and so far only one has gone negative with a push poll. Jennifer Roberts conducted a poll with negative, leading questions about the other Democrats in the race. According to the Charlotte Observer, her team claims it isn't a push poll because it isn't close enough to the September primary, and it isn't a large enough sample. Anyone trying to hone a negative message to use against fellow Democrats before filing opens is signaling just what type of campaign they plan to run.

So far there are four Democrats and two Republicans that have announced intentions to file next week with the primary scheduled for September. I am not conducting interviews with the candidates for this assessment. Instead, I am looking at the information readily available to voters to see if they have adequate information at hand to make an informed decision. Let's take a look at each candidate, their positions on issues, and the basics of their campaign operations.

Democratic candidates are:

  • Michael Barnes is the Charlotte City Council's Mayor Pro Tem and a close friend of disgraced Mayor Patrick Cannon who is serving 44 months for corruption. Barnes says he knew nothing about Cannon's illegal activities, and he is intelligent and thoughtful in his approach to his work on the council. However, Barnes accepted $24,000 from Cannon's contacts in the transportation and taxi cab industry at a time when the Charlotte airport's taxi contracts were an ongoing topic of interest before the council.
  • Dan Clodfelter is currently serving as mayor after being appointed to finish out disgraced Patrick Cannon's term. After telling several council members last year that he had no plans at the time to run for mayor after his appointed term was up, Clodfelter changed his mind. Clodfelter is well-liked, smart, and analytical.
  • David Howard was born and raised in Charlotte and has served on the city council for six years. He is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Fund Development with The Housing Partnership and has been employed with them since 1997. Howard chairs the Governance and Accountability Committee and is the former chair of the Transportation and Planning Committee. He is also currently a member of the Intergovernmental Relations and Environmental Committees.
  • Jennifer Roberts, a Raleigh native, is the former chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and served on the board for six years. In 2012, she ran against Robert Pittenger in the 9th Congressional District. Before entering politics, Roberts worked with the US Department of State, as a consular officer in the Dominican Republic and as a political officer on the Mexico Desk.

Republican Candidates are:

  • Edwin Peacock, lll is a native Charlottean and is the Vice President of The Pomfret Financial Company. He served on the Charlotte City Council from 2007 to 2011. He's a nice guy and about the only mark against him aside from his political party is that his politics too closely resemble those of Pat McCrory.
  • Scott Stone ran for mayor in 2011 against Anthony Foxx and was soundly defeated. He earned criticism for running a charity to help veterans that passed through less than 25% to the cause.

Stance on Issues

Michael Barnes (Dem)

Barnes gives three bullet point issues on his website and nothing more. They are:
  • Strong economic development and job creation.
  • Strong public safety - adding police officers and division stations and fire stations across our city.
  • Quality infrastructure - more roads, sidewalks and light rail.

In practice, Barnes has opposed the streetcar project that would connect the predominantly black west side of Charlotte with uptown. Charlotte's light rail has promoted business development along the line and supporters of the streetcar project believe the same will happen along those lines. It will connect a much-neglected area of Charlotte with the rest of the city more efficiently. Barnes apparently disagrees.

He also notably did not support the enhanced LGBT protections in March 2015 repeating a misleading claim that he was excluded from the conversations. Some believed he would vote for the amendment if transgender citizens were not allowed to enter the bathroom of their choice, however, he was overheard saying his vote had been lost during Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield's remarks.

Dan Clodfelter (Dem)

Clodfelter gives three bullet points on his website with no elaboration. They are:

  • A Healthy, Sustainable Economy
  • Safe and Vibrant Neighborhoods
  • Inclusion, Accessibility, Transparency

In practice, Clodfelter has a lengthy history of legislative accomplishments that include votes to protect the environment, to protect the financial stability of senior citizens and low-income families, and to protect citizens against identity theft. More of his accomplishments as a state senator can be found on his website as linked below.

As mayor, Clodfelter announced his support for the streetcar project and the expansion of Charlotte's nondiscrimination protections to include the LGBT community.

David Howard (Dem)

David Howard offers three main issues on his website and dedicates a page to outline the issue and his vision. The issues are thoughtful and well written. They are:

  • Economic Growth & International Business Development

    Jobs are the driving force behind our vision as a city. Whether it’s educating our children for careers, transportation projects that create jobs right away, or building relationships in the international business community, everything we do ties into economic development.

    To expand our regional influence, we must invest in and promote Charlotte’s global presence.

    For years, Charlotte has been compared to Atlanta, Nashville, Austin, and other mid-sized U.S. cities. But in truth, we’re set apart from these and other cities in important ways. We’re the nation’s second largest financial center and the home of the headquarters of its second largest bank. We’re also home to the largest public utility company in the U.S., and we boast one of the most efficient high-traffic airports in the world.

  • Transportation opportunities

    To alleviate traffic congestion and spark economic development, we must grow our transit infrastructure to provide more diverse transportation options.

    Our economy depends on a wide range of transportation options. Whether it is for a Charlottean riding the bus to work, a parent driving a child to school, a tourist taking Lynx to a game or a company shipping goods over our roads, we need efficient and reliable transit.

  • Educational Development

    To increase the research capacity and promise of UNCC, JCSU, Davidson, CPCC, JWU, and other colleges and universities in our region, we must integrate these efforts into our core economic development strategy.

    A good education is the foundation of a good economy.

    I owe so much of my success to my education – from elementary school all the way through CPCC and UNC Charlotte. As our educational offerings continue to thrive our city will thrive.

In practice, Howard has been a consensus builder. He supported the streetcar project and voted for expanded protections for the LGBT community with the bathroom provision that would exclude transgender persons from using the bathroom of their choice.

Jennifer Roberts (Dem)

Jennifer Roberts offers nothing on her vision for the city of Charlotte on her website and does not articulate what she feels are the important issues facing Charlotte.

Like Clodfelter, Roberts has a lengthy history of public service. In practice, she supported issues surrounding economic justice and smart growth for Mecklenburg County.

Edwin Peacock, lll (Rep)

Peacock does not articulate issues that he feels are important to Charlotte on his website.

In practice, Peacock has been slightly more socially liberal than many Republicans. He opposed Amendment One, however, came out against expanding Charlotte's nondiscrimination amendment to include LGBT citizens. [Correction: I am trying to source this. I have a memory of seeing a television interview where he was against the expansion, but may be incorrect.]

While I source the above assertion that he was opposed to the full expansion of Charlotte's nondiscrimination amendment to include LGBT citizens, here is part of an interview he gave Matt Comer with QNotes where he seems very unclear on his understanding of the need for the inclusion of LGBT citizens.

Would you support expanding protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under the Commercial Non-Discrimination Ordinance, so that businesses that are receiving taxpayer dollars for services they provide will then be prohibited from anti-gay discrimination?
I don’t have a problem with that. I just want to make sure we are trying to do business with more people within the City of Charlotte and make it fair for anybody who’s bidding to do that. I’m just always cautious when you put another layer on trying to do business with the city. Are you throwing stuff out or giving an unintended consequence? I’m with you on the fairness scenario. You know, Wal-Mart goes out and they can change the market place by just who they are dealing with…

I think activists would say the same thing about the city, that it could have the same effect.
Clearly, I’d want to see — I understood very clearly in 2007 when [former MeckPAC Chair] Phil Hargett was sitting here in this very office explaining to me the problem, the problem of not having sexual orientation [in the employment policy]. I said, well, it’s just a word. I’m with you on it. What’s the big deal? He went into depth on why it’s such a big deal. … I understood the retention needs there. I just want to understand, is there a real problem that we’re doing business with people right now that are discriminating? Is it a big problem? I don’t know. But, if it is a big problem, I want it to be an equal playing ground. We don’t need to be doing business with people that are discriminating.

Scott Stone (Rep)

Stone articulates 4 issues on his website and elaborates on his vision for the city.

  • Ensuring fiscal responsibility

    I want to ensure that the next generations have the same economic opportunities that past generations have had in Charlotte. We must have the kind of financial environment where our children can choose to come back to their hometown, raise their families and have unlimited opportunities for prosperity. We cannot accept anything less for our families’ future and for our city.

  • Dedicated to restoring trust in our government

    Charlotte’s recent past has seen scandal, partisan bickering, and a lack of transparency. Restoring trust is essential to moving our community forward. For companies to do business in Charlotte, they need to know that city leaders are trustworthy. Furthermore, our citizen need to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and that their elected officials are putting the people’s need ahead of themselves.

  • Committed to job creation

    Making Charlotte competitive is the most important reason Stone is running for mayor. He has been very active in economic development and job recruiting activities during the past decade.

  • Building one Charlotte

    Making Charlotte competitive is the most important reason Stone is running for mayor. He has been very active in economic development and job recruiting activities during the past decade.

Campaign Website

Campaign websites don't vote, but they can be an inexpensive way to own your campaign's brand and messaging on the internet. Any candidate running for mayor in a city the size of Charlotte should have a well-designed, attractive website that is optimized for mobile users.

Visitors to the website should be able to easily find information about the candidate, the issues, how to volunteer, and how to make a donation. Informing voters about the issues is very important, especially since most newspapers offer limited free access to their sites. The campaign should be able to collect contact information for an email list, offer a way for volunteers to connect with the campaign, and offer a way to collect donations.

The websites for Charlotte's mayoral candidates are being judged on these criteria, and the results are below.

Michael Barnes

Grade: D


Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes has a website using the free Weebly service. His site ranks #2 in a Google search for his name. He is getting a D for the following reasons:

  • It has almost no information about Barnes and his vision for the city
  • The site is not optimized for mobile users
  • There is no recognizable branding other than the use of the color blue - even the favicon is the default Weebly "w"
  • There is a Paypal contribution form on the front page which is relatively easy to use
  • You have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for the contact button

Dan Clodfelter

Grade: F


Current Mayor Dan Clodfelter was appointed in 2014 after Patrick Cannon's arrest on corruption charges. His website ranks #42 in a Google search for his name, which is pathetic. While there are a couple of positives about the site, they just can't overcome the fact that the site doesn't even rank for his name. He is receiving an "F" for the following reasons:

  • In a Google search, the website ranks #42 for "Dan Clodfelter" or "Dan Clodfelter for Mayor." It is on the 5th page.
  • The website is a cookie cutter theme with little to no customization
  • His name-based logo has an odd dreamsicle-colored swirly background
  • There is almost no information about Clodfelter's stance on issues facing Charlotte
  • Donate, Contact Us, and Volunteer buttons are prominent and easy to find
  • The front page slideshow features two images of Clodfelter and none of the city of Charlotte

David Howard

Grade: A-


David Howard has done just about everything right with his campaign website. Here are a few specifics on why David is getting an A- grade.

  • David has consistently used the same "H" logo and the green and blue color scheme through all his campaigns.
  • The "H" logo is a little reminiscent of the Hilton logo
  • Beautiful, sharp images are impressive and are of locations in the city of Charlotte
  • Easy navigation
  • The site is optimized for mobile users
  • The donation button should be a little more obvious
  • Social media account links are located at the top of the page and on the sidebar

Jennifer Roberts (Dem)

Grade = D-


Jennifer does a few things right, but she gets a near-failing grade for these reasons:
She fails to articulate her vision for Charlotte. She doesn't even try. She announced she was running for mayor more than a year ago and she has yet to include her view of the issues facing Charlotte

  • There are no photos of Charlotte on her website, just a few family photos
  • The site is not fully optimized for mobile users
  • The donate and volunteer button is prominent
  • The contact button is prominent and in the correct location on the menu bar
  • The site ranks #1 in a Google search for her name

Edwin Peacock, lll (Rep)

Grade = C


Peacock has an attractive site that is optimized for mobile users, but he fails to offer site visitors the information for which many will be searching. He receives a C for the following reasons:

  • There are no photos that are recognizably of Charlotte
  • Volunteer tab is not straightforward
  • There is no discussion of issues
  • Peacock does not articulate his vision for the city
  • It is optimized for mobile users
  • The donate button is prominent

Scott Stone (Rep)

Grade: B-


Stone has done a lot of things right with his site, but there are a few negatives that bring his grade down. He earned a B- for the following reasons:
  • Dark green and gold colors are gloomy
  • Parallax scrolling is not well executed and it is difficult to see the beautiful images of Charlotte
  • The four issues are all on one page. Each issue should have its own page to make them easier to find in search
  • The site ranks #2 in Google for his name
  • The donate button is easy to find
  • There is no button or tab to sign up to volunteer
  • Clear social media buttons are very difficult to see

Campaign Finance Reports

For most candidates, we will not have a lot of current information on the state of their campaign finances and the effectiveness of their fundraising. The latest campaign finance reporting period ended June 30, and reports are not due until July 31. Monies in other local and state campaign coffers may be used

Michael Barnes (Dem)

Barnes has filed his Amended Statement of Organization and the Certification of Treasurer form, but the latest financial reports are not due for another month. At the end of 2014 he had $30,472.89 cash on hand. He lists no fundraising events on the events tab of his website.

Dan Clodfelter (Dem)

Clodfelter has filed his Amended Statement of Organization and Certification of Treasurer. On January 1, 2015, he showed $37,711.04 cash on hand, and it appears to be a transfer from his previous state campaign account. This is perfectly legal and is common practice. His next report is not due until July 31, 2015.

David Howard (Dem)

Howard is typically a very strong fundraiser. At the end of 2014 he showed $1,360.07 cash on hand. Like the others, his mid-year report is due July 31.

Jennifer Roberts (Dem)

Roberts announced her bid for mayor over a year ago, and has been raising money for a much longer period of time than the other candidates. She reported cash on hand of $116,411.63 at the end of 2014. Her next report is due in a few weeks when we will get a better idea of her totals compared to other candidates.

Edwin Peacock, lll (Rep)

Peacock is the most recent candidate to announce and his account from the 2013 bid for mayor was closed. He is reporting $1000 cash on hand with the May 26 Amended Statement of Organization report.

Scott Stone (Rep)

As of the last reporting, Stone had $4,458.75 cash on hand. Like the others, he will be posting new numbers at the end of July. It is difficult to compare fundraising numbers until that time.

Social Media Presence

Michael Barnes (Dem)

Barnes links to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter on his website.

Instagram = barnes4clt
There is no branding carryover. His profile photo does not match that used on Facebook and Twitter. He has 40 followers, and most of the latest images are from January.

Facebook = barnes4clt
Barnes has 2210 page likes. He updates the page every few days with announcements and local news. The page header is poorly executed and does not match the website header. Header and profile photo match those used on Twitter.

Twitter = Barnes4Clt
Barnes has 862 followers. The page header and profile photo match those used on Facebook. However, the header is poorly executed. Branding does not carry over from the website. The account has 1427 tweets.

Dan Clodfelter (Dem)

Clodfelter links to Facebook on his website.

Facebook = Dan Clodfelter Campaign
Clodfelter has two pictures of himself - one profile picture and one in the header. There are no pictures of Charlotte on his website. The name-based logo with the dreamsicle-colored background is plopped in the upper right corner of the header image. He has 336 likes.

David Howard (Dem)

Howard links to Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr on his website.

Facebook = davidhowardclt
Branding carries forward in the profile photo with the campaign banner behind David. Header image is of a group of women from his latest Women for Howard event. The page is current and updated often. He has 1298 likes on his page.

Twitter = DavidHowardclt
Branding carries over on Howard's Twitter account with his logo and "Howard for Mayor" on his header. He tweets often, and he has 2835 followers.

Flickr = VoteDavidHoward
Branding does not carry over to Howard's Flickr account. He has nine followers. The account hosts photos from campaign events and other activities.

Jennifer Roberts (Dem)

Roberts links to her Facebook account on her website.

Facebook = Jennifer Roberts for Charlotte Mayor
She does carry her branding over to the page. It is very well run with frequent updates and interaction with supporters. The page has 1992 likes.

Edwin Peacock, lll (Rep)

Peacock links to Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and Twitter from his website.

Facebook = Edwin Peacock
Branding carries over to his Facebook page with his name-based logo and the main image on his website. The page is frequently updated and well managed. He has 2107 likes on his page.

Google+ = Not sure
The Google+ button leads to Rally.org, which was/is the fundraising page used by Peacock for his 2013 race.

YouTube = Edwin Peacock
The name-based logo is used on Peacock's YouTube channel. He has posted two videos and has eight followers.

Twitter = EdwinPeacockIII
Branding carries over with logo and header image from the website. The account is updated fairly frequently, but he often goes a few days between posts. He has 2171 followers.

Scott Stone (Rep)

Stone links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram on his website.

Facebook = scottdstone
Branding from the website does not carry over to Stone's Facebook page. Updates are sporadic. The page has 581 likes.

Twitter = ScottDStone
Branding does not carry over to Stone's Twitter account. However, Twitter and Facebook have the same profile picture and header. There is some consistency between social media accounts, but that is not shared with the website.

LinkedIn = Friends of Scott Stone
The group has a very small green and gold name-based logo. It has 35 members.

Instagram = ScottStone1775
Stone's Instagram account shares the profile photo of him that is used on Facebook and Twitter. He has 219 followers and the account appears to be a mix of personal and campaign images.

Campaign Organization

Michael Barnes (Dem)

It is unknown who is managing the campaign. He lists no major endorsements on his website.

Dan Clodfelter (Dem)

Clodfelter hired his long-time campaign manager, Dan McCorkle to run his campaign for mayor. McCorkle has also run At-large Councilwoman Clair Fallon's campaigns and, according to the Charlotte Business Journal was an informal advisor to Patrick Cannon's mayoral campaign. Casey Mann is serving as field director and Dane Strother from Strother Strategies is handling media.

Clodfelter touts endorsements from local citizens, some with recognizable names and others who are long-time supporters, neighbors, and friends. He has endorsements from former state Senator and candidate for Congress Malcolm Graham; former Sheriff Chipp Bailey, and former city attorney Mac McCarley.

David Howard (Dem)

Howard has announced his finance team. It includes Brice Barnes as finance director and Jill Santuccio as assistant finance director. Santuccio previously worked for Anthony Foxx. Yolanda Johnson and Stephan Rosenburgh co-chair Howard's finance committee.

He has endorsements from Hugh McColl, former Ambassador Mark Erwin, N.C. Rep. Kelly Alexander, Jr. and Carlenia Ivory.

Jennifer Roberts (Dem)

Roberts has hired Aiesha Dew to serve as campaign manager with media being handled by Jennifer Smith of Media, Inc.

Roberts has endorsements from Bill Diehl, Sarah Belk Gambrell, Crandall Bowles, and former Observer publisher Rolfe Neill.

Edwin Peacock lll (Rep)

It is unknown at this time who is managing Peacock's campaign. He has announced the endorsement of City councilman Ed Driggs. Peacock will have no trouble gaining the endorsements of prominent Republicans in Charlotte.

Scott Stone (Rep)

Stone has hired Paul Shumaker to run his campaign and fundraising will be handled by Neal Orr and April Byrd.

Stone has been endorsed by Pastor Mark Harris, Bill Crowder of Crowder Construction, and Ron Sherrill.

*Some information on campaign teams and endorsements from Jim Morrill at The Charlotte Observer.