Mayor Pat McCrory will probably laugh out loud when he reads this column. This might even be one of those pieces he makes fun of on the radio, in the process earning Creative Loafing hundreds of dollars in free advertising. But if the poll that Kevin Geddings unveiled last week at the luncheon for the Uptown Democratic Forum is on track, it'll be Charlotte's voters who get the last laugh. McCrory, it seems, is going out of style.
Voters still like McCrory, the poll showed, but they've had enough of him. While 61 percent of Charlotte's hardcore voters expressed positive feelings about the mayor, only 43 percent of them say they'd reelect him to another term.
It went downhill from there. A third of Republicans said they want a new mayor, and McCrory is a Republican. In fact, more members of McCrory's own party thought the city was on the wrong track than on the right one, though the Democrats weren't exactly enthused, either.
Of course, Geddings paid for the poll, and the Democrat wants to run for mayor in the future. But Geddings needs his party's endorsement to do that, so giving Democratic candidates who can't afford their own polls bogus numbers to use in tight campaigns this fall would be a very bad idea.
And then there's the content of the poll, which didn't exactly endear Geddings to anyone. Using pages and pages of numbers, Geddings described a coming wave of voter discontent the size of a tsunami.
Voters have soured on light rail in a big way, Geddings warned. A whopping 67 percent of them would rather widen existing roads than build another rail line to Davidson. Among Democrat voters, 58 percent shared that view and among Republicans, 82 percent did. Politically speaking, that's a massacre.
The Democrats didn't like hearing that, given their longterm love affair with light rail, but that wasn't the point. Geddings, a political consultant to candidates who have won against tight odds, knows the cardinal rules of politics. If a tsunami is headed straight for you, you can either get flattened by it or try to ride it.
The poll showed that voters are freaked out about the schools, so much so that they wanted -- heck, practically demanded -- every politician, including the mayor, to do something about it. They're worried about crime and they're so rattled by our leaders' inability to manage growth that a majority of voters, including a majority of Republicans, want to slap developers with impact fees even though it would raise housing prices.
The extent of voters' angst even jarred the pollsters at GarinHartYang Research Group who conducted the poll, because for a prosperous New South city, it was really off the charts.
Interestingly, as the Democrats arrived uptown for their luncheon, McCrory was busy doing a radio interview about the latest twists and turns in the battle for the NASCAR museum, an issue that failed to register as very important in the poll.
This is the same Pat McCrory who has never offered the public a coherent explanation for why our mass transit budget has sextupled, who says that the city can't do much about state-owned roads, that crime is still lower than it was a decade ago when he took office, that funding the court system is the responsibility of the state and that the mayor really isn't in charge of education.
That, Geddings told the crowd, is essentially Exhibit A as to what not to say around here for the next couple of years if you want to get (and stay) elected.
McCrory doesn't have an opponent who is worth a darn this time around, so he will dodge the tsunami of voter discontent which would normally be capable of flattening politicians with better poll numbers than he has. But a few politicians who understand what's going on at the grassroots are already beginning to ride the wave by running as anti-McCrorys.
Democratic City Council candidate David Erdman, who briefly touted light rail in a public presentation last year, passed out a flier that knocked "mega projects" and promised a return to basics like public safety and a first-class road system. At-large City Council member Susan Burgess, a Democrat who until recently tended toward words like "sustainable" and "economic justice," now manages to work in diatribes about roads and police every week during televised Council meetings. Republican Lynn Wheeler, who positively glowed a few years back at a ground-breaking ceremony for the trolley and light rail, now has an anti-rail come-to-Jesus experience on a weekly basis for the benefit of radio and television audiences.
These are the new anti-McCrorys, and if Geddings is right they have a bright future ahead of them.