Prosperous, progressive and, yes, white West Raleigh prevailed over less-prosperous, left-out, left-behind and, yes, black East Raleigh in the mayor’s race.
Now the job of newly reelected Mayor Nancy McFarlane and the new City Council is to bridge the divide.
And that’s the challenge for North Carolina Democrats who hope for a replay of Virginia’s victories here next year and in 2020.
The healing isn’t helped by McFarlane supporters who criticize challenger Charles Francis as “divisive,” “partisan” and motivated only by “political ambition.”
Francis had every right to call a runoff – and every reason to think he might win. Of course he has ambition. Every politician does. He also had a mission: to speak up for people who feel they aren’t being heard in City Hall now.
You see the divide if you work downtown or spend much time there. There are the well-heeled “knowledge workers” who spend $15 on burgers and $10 on cocktails in trendy restaurants. And there are the folks who stand in rain and heat and cold to catch a bus to work or go shopping.
White Democrats who look longingly to 2018 and 2020 need to recognize that Francis’s defeat leaves many black Democrats feeling scarred, second-class and once again taken for granted.
Francis hurt himself by sending mixed signals about party in a hyper-partisan environment. He ran as the only registered Democrat against the Unaffiliated McFarlane. But he went before the Republican Party and asked for their support. He called himself a “Jim Hunt Democrat,” but Jim Hunt endorsed McFarlane. Which led one angry Francis supporter to call for taking Hunt’s name off the Democratic Party’s Hunt-Sanford-Frye Dinner.
That division does not bode well for North Carolina Democrats in the next two crucial election cycles. And the responsibility for addressing it rests squarely on incumbent elected officials and party leaders.
Francis was a strong challenger. He has a bright future in politics – maybe another race for Mayor or a run for the legislature, Congress or statewide office.
White Democrats have to recognize the importance of recruiting African-American candidates. Remember: The only Democratic Presidential candidate to carry North Carolina in the last 40 years was a black man named Obama.
All Democrats have the recognize the importance of recruiting strong and diverse candidates to run strong races in diverse districts. Take Virginia. A transgender candidate beat a homophobe for the state House. A black candidate was elected Lieutenant Governor. And the new Governor is a boring, centrist, white doctor who beat a Republican who followed the Trump-Bannon playbook.
It takes all kinds.