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Q&A with Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock III 

On his mission, his father and the differences between him and his opponent

Editor's Note: This is the first part in a series of Q&As with the two mayoral candidates, Republican Edwin Peacock III and Democrat Patrick Cannon. Cannon's Q&A will publish next week.

His father was a county commissioner and city councilman who lost against Harvey Gantt when he ran for mayor in 1983. Now, at 43, Edwin Peacock III is trying to win the race his father couldn't. But running for mayor in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, Peacock faces an uphill battle. To win, he will have to make Charlotte voters trust another Republican to run the city when many people are unhappy with the way Republicans are running Raleigh.

Peacock recently spoke with CL about the campaign, his father's legacy, his take on his opponent and why voters should give a Republican a chance. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Creative Loafing: You describe yourself as a "pragmatic Republican." What does that mean?

Edwin Peacock: First and foremost, it means I'm looking to have a positive outcome. I'm looking to fix problems rather than push for a particular political agenda. That comes from my background as a business owner.

In Washington, D.C., we see a government divided between a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. Charlotte's City Council has a strong Democratic majority. What good would it do to elect a Republican mayor?

Let's look at the culture of local government, of which my opponent Cannon has been a large part of. I say this with respect: He didn't get along real well with Mayor Foxx. That was [his opponent] James Mitchell's whole point: Who's going to carry on Foxx's agenda? I think a Republican would provide balance. There is not one person on the Council who does not want to see more jobs created or more prosperity brought to their district.

Is is right for voters in the Charlotte area to be disappointed in Gov. McCrory, perhaps even betrayed by him?

I think it is too soon to jump to the full conclusion. The economy is the issue, and in that area he has been trying to get us some parity on taxes with Virginia and South Carolina. That's a positive for everybody. What I really disagree with is the legislature. I don't think they got it right on teacher pay. As mayor, I would advocate for competitive teacher pay. On the Voter ID bill, 70 percent of voters supported showing one at the polls. But where the legislature went too far were the things they added to that legislation. They took the policy too far and inflamed things.

What did you learn from your father about politics and about life?

Relationships matter, and the test of a decision is the test of time. Particularly with transit, the decisions you make now will take decades before they are fully realized. In my father's case, it was the beltway.

Were you pressured to go into politics or the family business of financial services?

My father's advice to me out of college was to choose a profession where there was no limit to what you could learn. Then you could pursue your passions and your dreams, he said. After college I chose to go to Washington, D.C., instead of Charlotte, which wasn't an appealing place to live for someone who was 22; it didn't have anything that it offers now to a recent college graduate. There was no push to get directly with the insurance and investment business. I did that when I was 28 or 29, and I was working in the mortgage field.

My impetus to run for office was driven by Leadership Charlotte. My father never had a conversation with me in which he said he thought I should run for public office. I did grow up campaigning with him, and I have vivid memories of his nine years of public service. I admired them. I remember when I first told him that I was going to run. He looked surprised but told me, "This is going to change your life."

What would it mean to you to win this race, the one he couldn't?

When I got on City Council, I said if this opportunity ever came up, I wanted this position. I wanted to direct the conversation and make a positive impact.

There is considerable poverty across Charlotte. As a Republican and someone who never grew up wanting for anything, what would you do about it?

My approach comes from something I learned at camp as a little boy called "the true gentleman." You don't make a poor man conscious of his poverty, an insecure man of his insecurity, or any man of his inferiority. So I'm not above or below anyone. We all want to be appreciated and loved. Right now there are people who are struggling in Charlotte, particularly in the east and west. There is a real societal gap to develop things for them to succeed.

This is the third political race you've entered in three years. What makes this one different?

It is a frontrunner race with real issues and real contrasts between candidates. It's not a slate race. I have a different personality than my opponent, different ideas, different vision.

The mayor of Charlotte does not have a tremendous amount of institutional power. But if elected, you would have the bully pulpit. How would you use it?

As the advocate-in-chief, the mayor's role is to sell Charlotte — to make this the beacon for the best and the brightest, to create a culture that is efficient, warm, safe, clean. A place where you can grow and build. I think the next mayor is going to have to be more involved in helping CMS Superintendent Dr. Morrison, or our community colleges, to build a great school system. The mayor has almost an ombudsman-type role to make the story known to the consumers of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. The system needs so much more help, and an effective mayor can be a part of that conversation.

Where can we take Charlotte in the next few years, and how will your leadership affect our direction?

We're living on past glory. We have our strengths, which are clearly banking, finance and energy. But there is a missing piece: an ecosystem to help entrepreneurs grow companies. A culture where failure is acceptable because success will follow the failures. I'm going to go back to private-sector job creation.

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