City residents likely will wake up Wednesday with something of a mayoral election hangover.
After all, they’ve been inundated with campaign fliers, roadway posters and media outlet reports since the municipal primary on Oct. 10 narrowed the mayoral field from four to two — Mayor Nat Robertson, seeking his third term, and Mitch Colvin, the mayor pro tem, bidding to become this city’s second black mayor in history.
“I’m excited,” Colvin, 44, would say after the primary, when he garnered 5,803 votes, 1,730 more than runner-up Robertson, with City Councilman Kirk deViere third with 2,770 and Quancidine Gribble with 241. “But I don’t want to take anything for granted,” Colvin would add.
Robertson was undaunted by the results, and the gap. He had been down this political road in 2013, when Councilwoman Val Applewhite took the mayoral primary with 5,392 votes, while Robertson was second with 3,802 and deViere third with 2,461.
Robertson would defeat Applewhite by 259 votes in the general election.
So, no, he wasn’t worried this time, either.
“For us to have such a solid second-place finish with such an organic campaign,” the 54-year-old mayor would say about cautious primary campaign spending, “we are going to have a really good showing in November.”
Colvin would say after the euphoria from his supporters died down at the Cumberland County Department of Social Services, venue for the primary returns, that the real campaign work was ahead, and quickly his candidacy would be buoyed by deViere.
“I encourage my supporters and others to stand with Mitch and elect him as the next mayor of our city,” deViere would say, endorsing Colvin on Oct. 12. “ …I stand ready to help him during this election season, but more importantly once he becomes mayor.”
It was a political dagger for Robertson, already reeling from a mayor pro tem and a city councilman challenging his leadership as a two-term mayor. And then came Gov. Roy Cooper on Oct. 25 in support of Colvin at a $150-per-ticket fundraiser at the downtown Metropolitan Room.
“It’s important,” the Demoractic governor would say, “that we have leaders of character … .”
And that’s when the mayoral race took a radical turn for the ugly.
Robin Hayes, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, immediately chastised Cooper for endorsing a candidate “with not only a long record of criminal charges, but his current record of unethical business practices as noted by several actions taken by state regulators.”
Colvin’s past was called into question, from poor decisions as a teenager that led to misdemeanor convictions, to sanctions from state regulators about how he operated his funeral home to an eviction notice just last week about his crematory office for failure to timely pay rent in arrears.
And then a political dagger from The Friends to Elect Nat Robertson Mayor: a mail-out about a 2003 domestic violence protective order obtained by Colvin’s wife that would draw her ire in a mayoral political campaign, Colvin supporters contend, that went too far.
“An act of desperation,” Colvin would say, by a mayor in fear of losing the city gavel.
Not so, the mayor would say. Not so.
Just the facts, Mr. Colvin. Just the facts.
Operatives with Colvin’s campaign fired back, pointing to a 2008 lawsuit involving the mayor over rent owed for office space.
“Politics,” says George Breece, a longtime politico in state and local politics, “is a contact sport.”
Tuesday, city residents spoke.
You are forgiven if you wake up this morning with a mayoral campaign hangover, because in the words of the politically insightful Mr. Breece, “this mayors race has made some other politicians look like choirboys.”
An ibuprofen, please.
It’s been a mayoral race to remember.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3571.