Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Election Day 2013: Local GOP maps future, plans revival

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Edwin Peacock is that kind of guy you feel compelled to root for even when you disagree with him. As the Charlotte Republican mayoral candidate addressed a disappointed crowd at Dilworth Grill in his concession speech Tuesday night, he began by asking if everyone had a drink, with such sincere concern in his voice, I almost expected him to buy us all a round.

He delivered a positive, upbeat speech, saying he felt like even though he lost the race, the city had won. Despite his disagreements with newly elected mayor Patrick Cannon during the campaign, they never once attacked each other with negative ads or rhetoric, and that's something he will look back on with pride, he said.

He's right. The city has scored a major victory. Our mayor's race has seen national media coverage for its civility and focus on the issues. Though the candidates sparred in debates, neither attempted the kind of extreme partisan personal take-downs that have become so common in our nation's politics. This race was a model for how not to deeply divide our electorate to the point they are spitting venom across party lines, and Peacock is a model for the type of fair-minded, centrist candidate voters of all stripes can support. He's the type of candidate the local Republican Party may need to continue running if it's going to survive the 21st century.

At Dilworth Grill, there was a consensus among the younger attendees I spoke to that voters for the extreme social conservatives who dominate the media cycle and our state legislature are a dying breed.

"The younger the voter, the more accepting they are of different lifestyles and diversity," said Scott Jordan, policy director of the NC Young Republicans. "Millennials who are conservatives are more libertarian than anything."

I asked Jordan what he thought the party needed to do locally to help sway elections in their favor. Why wasn't Peacock, a fiscal conservative who publicly opposed Amendment One and chaired the city's environmental committee, enough to score a Republican win?

Jordan suggested a rebranding effort of sorts was necessary, saying they need to take a bold position to effect real change and differentiate themselves from the party nationally. He cited marijuana law reform, taking a strong stance for personal privacy and getting corporate money out of elections as possibilities.

"We need to show we're the party of personal responsibility and true free-market capitalism," Jordan said.

I overheard several conversations throughout the night about how straight-ticket voting was losing elections and how the new voting law taking effect in 2016 is a definite win for the party.

"When people choose the candidate instead of the party line, our candidates do better. The playing field will be different without the straight-ticket option on the ballot," said Warren Cooksey, the outgoing District 7 City Councilman who may have given the local party a black eye last year when he supported a suggestion that Ballantyne secede from the city.

The party is split into no less than five different factions - the social conservatives, the libertarians, the tea partiers, the moderates and the establishment.

How does a party this divided unify and carry on?

Peacock tried to quell these concerns. "The Meck GOP will return. I don't believe this party's done. There will be a brighter day."

When asked what was next for him, he replied, "Nothing political. I want my life back."

So long, Mr. Nice Guy.

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