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Screw-up or PR Move? 

Either way, Geddings snafu embarrasses Dems

"What did he know and when did he know it?" That's the question several Democratic operatives were asking themselves last week after Kevin Geddings, the only worthwhile mayoral candidate they've had in years, bowed out of the race.

Had he used local Democrats to get thousands of dollars worth of free media PR for a future mayor's race? Had he ever really intended to run?

The official explanation Geddings gave for bowing out was that he didn't know until last Wednesday that he wouldn't be eligible to run, because he had missed the deadline to switch from unaffiliated to Democrat by about 45 days. Geddings told us last week that Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Director Michael Dickerson said on July 1 that Geddings might not be eligible. Dickerson didn't say definitively that Geddings couldn't run, either, according to Geddings, but promised to research the issue.

The problem, say party operatives CL spoke to, was that Geddings didn't mention his potential ineligibility to them. Party veterans said that since the same problem has come up before, they could have told him he wasn't qualified to run, they said. Others, like City Council member Susan Burgess, say Geddings did mention the registration situation to her, but assured her it probably wouldn't be a problem.

Dickerson said he didn't give Geddings an answer right away because he went on vacation after their initial conversation. After checking with state officials last week, Dickerson said he determined Geddings was ineligible.

Either way, the whole thing landed the party exactly where it was a month ago — looking silly after yet another well-qualified candidate went down in flames.

State legislator Becky Carney declined to run last month. Before that, popular City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon vowed to give Mayor Pat McCrory the political fight of his life before suddenly dropping out of the race. There are indications Geddings was having problems raising money. He was counting on his past fundraising and work creating political advertising to loosen purse strings. But Geddings says he ran into the same problem that many say Cannon faced. In an e-mail to CL on the day he dropped out, Geddings said he was discouraged by the lack of support he was getting from traditional Democratic contributors. Sources close to Cannon said that he, too, found that the city's influential big-dollar donors had closed ranks around McCrory. Republicans and some Democrats either gave heavily to the five-term Republican mayor's campaign, sources said, or chose to pass on Cannon's campaign rather then challenge the status quo.

"Ironically, I'll be eligible to run [in] every future election except this one," Geddings said. It's anybody's guess whether he actually will, after swimming with the political sharks for a few weeks and getting bitten.

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