The biggest surprises in this year’s election results

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Election season 2015 is now officially over, and Charlotte has elected the person who will be its fifth mayor in less than three years. Here’s a quick recap of the results.

Charlotte mayor: Democrat Jennifer Roberts defeats Republican Edwin Peacock, 52-48.

City Council: Democrats sweep the four at-large positions: Julie Eiselt, Vi Lyles, Claire Green Fallon and James “Smuggie” Mitchell.

School board: Ericka Ellis-Stewart and Mary McCray win re-election to at-large seats, and they’ll be joined by Elyse Dashew.

County commissioner terms: They will stay at two years, instead of the four years the board wanted.

Here’s a few tidbits I found surprising.

Mayor’s race was closer than the percentages made it look

It never felt close. But purely by the numbers, it was closer than you think. Only about 3,500 votes separated Roberts and Peacock, in a voting electorate of more than 600,000. Especially in municipal elections, it’s all about who you can turn out in the polls, and weirder things have happened than a long-shot candidate getting everything to fall into place.

Instead, things broke down about how they usually do. Peacock dominated the south Charlotte wedge, while Roberts ran up bigger margins everywhere else.

Julie Eiselt demolishes the old guard

julie-eiselt-wins

In her first campaign for public office, Julie Eiselt absolutely demolished the three incumbents (I’ll count Mitchell even though he’s technically not one) on the ballot to be the top vote-getter for City Council at-large. She based her campaign around public safety, and in a year where the murder rate has grown tremendously, it clearly resonated.

There wasn’t a particular area where she dominated. But she consistently banked votes across the county from all manner of voters. As a Democrat, she clearly captured votes in the Republican wedge of the county and also garnered plenty of votes in more liberal areas.

No Republicans made the school board at-large

Yes, school board races are technically nonpartisan but we all know they’re not really. The heir apparent to the standard Republican spot on the school board was Jeremy Stephenson, who got the endorsement of outgoing vice chairman Tim Morgan and raised a ton of cash. But he came in fourth, just out of an at-large seat.

Stepping in was Elyse Dashew, a Democrat who has run for office unaffiliated in the past. She performed very well in the southern wedge made up of more Republican-leaning voters. Top vote-getter Ericka Ellis-Stewart (also the top candidate four years ago) did well across the entire county.

Turnout was even more abysmal than usual

Voter turnout came in at less than 15 percent, significantly lower than the 18 percent Mecklenburg County got in 2013. Like I said above, that can have all sorts of impacts on the race.

Fundraising in the mayor’s race is back near an all-time high

Between Roberts and Peacock, a total of $919,579.86 was raised in campaign contributions this go-round, according to the most recent finance records. That’s good for the most expensive general election in the last three cycles and the most evenly split since then as well. Roberts ended up edging Peacock by $115,000.

The 2013 race was an anomaly in recent campaign fundraising, with only about $600,000 raised between Peacock and eventual winner Patrick Cannon. Before that, Anthony Foxx smoked Republican Scott Stone in the money game with the help of President Barack Obama staffers (Foxx raised a whopping $771,797.93 in the race).

But this year’s total falls well short of the 2009 race that installed a Democrat in the mayor’s chair for the first time in decades. Foxx and John Lassiter combined for about $1.1 million.

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Andrew Dunn
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