A rising statewide star

Published January 24, 2019

By Brad Crone

by Brad Crone, communications consultant and NC SPIN panelist, January 23, 2019.

Most of the time, the political elites in Raleigh pay little attention to the happenings in our state’s largest city.  For years, folks in Raleigh refer to Charlotte as ‘The Great State of Mecklenburg.’

So, it is somewhat noteworthy when a Mecklenburg politician can get the attention of the state’s political caste.

Outside of the Charlotte media market, Mayor Vi Lyles is an unknown political figure, so when she appeared at the recent Transportation Summit in Raleigh the expectations were low.

When she left the building, there was a new realization that Mayor Lyles was the real deal.

People close to the Mayor will often tell you that she likes to be under-estimated.  In 2017, Jennifer Roberts paid the price for doing so – losing her job to her Mayor Pro Tem.  Since then, Mayor Lyles has been a successful leader because she has diligently worked as a consensus builder.

Mayor Lyles stole the show appearing on a panel about the many transportation and transit needs our cities and state will face in the future.  Her grasp of the issues and her ability to articulate the finer points of policy showed the audience that she was the real deal.  Mayor Lyles demonstrated to an important audience of influential that she was a rising statewide star.

Mayor Lyles showed she had a keen understanding of the policy. She had an innate ability to connect with the audience and her straight-forward style left the crowd all realizing one thing – Mayor Lyles  showed the political class in Raleigh that she has star power and that she could be a major player on the statewide stage.

The mayor has a compelling story, working in city government, rising through the ranks, serving on City Council and then being elected the first African-American woman mayor in the city.  Since her election, she has been a consensus builder – working to bring together the varied interest groups including the business community to advance Charlotte as a world-class city.

That may be one reason her name keeps popping up as a potential candidate to challenge U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. It will be intriguing to watch if the mayor is willing to leave a comfortable setting in Charlotte to look at a state or national race.  Many people close to the Mayor have said she is more interested in running for Governor in 2024 than looking at a U.S. Senate race in 2020 or 2022.

If Mayor Lyles decides she is going to run for Governor, she will immediately become a big burr in the saddle for Attorney General Josh Stein who is positioning himself as Governor Cooper’s heir apparent for the Democrats.  There’s little doubt that General Stein will have to keep Mayor Lyles in his spyglass because if she decides she’s running for Governor in 2024 she’s going to be very hard to beat.