In Upset, Charlotte Mayor Loses Primary. Here's Why.

September 14, 2017

In the end, it was the two-year accumulation of events that fell like an avalanche on Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

From a showdown with the General Assembly over LGBT rights to nights of street protests to a fraught relationship with police, it all led to what one Democrat called “Jennifer fatigue.”

“I don’t think many people think the last couple years have gone well under her,” said DeWitt Crosby, an active Democrat and retired psychologist.

Roberts lost Tuesday’s Democratic primary to Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles by nearly 3,400 votes, or 10 percentage points. Lyles goes on to face Republican council member Kenny Smith in November.

Reasons for the mayor’s loss aren’t hard to find:

▪ Roberts found herself up against a suddenly reinvigorated Black Political Caucus, focused by last fall’s street violence.

▪ She lost support among many white progressives, who saw her as increasingly divisive or ineffective. During the protests over the fatal Keith Lamont Scott shooting by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, she disappointed those who found her either too supportive of police or not supportive enough.

▪ And she became the campaign’s favorite piñata, bashed repeatedly by state Sen. Joel Ford and other critics while Lyles was generally able to remain above the fray.

Roberts was used to being the top vote-getter, whether running for mayor or Mecklenburg commissioner. But she wasn’t the only Democratic incumbent to lose Tuesday.

Veteran council incumbents Claire Fallon and Patsy Kinsey lost their seats in an election that saw the victories of four candidates 35 or younger.

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