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Harold Cogdell's big move

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Glenn H. Bukins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com. He welcomes your comments. Email editor@qcitymetro.com or call 704-442-1565.

Two things happened this week that somehow ought to be stretched and connected for the noble sake of journalistic commentary.

First, Mecklenburg commissioner Harold Cogdell began making moves…again…to oust fellow Democrat Jennifer Roberts as board chair with help from rival Republicans. Then, two days later, Chiquita Brands International said it would move its headquarters here.

Is anyone else seeing this?

I’m talking serious bananas in both cases.

Welcome to the Qcity, Chiquita, but this column is all about Cogdell.

For the second time, Mecklenburg commissioner Harold Cogdell is trying to win the chair post over incumbent Jennifer Roberts, background. Last year he didn't get the votes he needed. (Photo: JEFF WILLHELM - jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com)

Can someone please explain why an otherwise sane Democrat would think it wise to bum rush the affable Roberts, a member of his own party and arguably the most popular elected official in all of Mecklenburg? (She bested him by more than 6,000 votes in last year’s at-large race.)

Cogdell’s actions might be easier to understand if he made a case that Roberts' politics had shifted too far left or right and landed somewhere out of touch with local voters or shifting demographics. But no, none of that has apparently happened.

In a county that grows increasingly black and Democratic, he errs in casting his lot with the like of Bill James, a vile politician who delights in firing off the most bilious emails attacking the African American community.

Cogdell has denied being motivated by next year’s Democratic convention or any desire to grab the spotlight as board chair. Rather, he says, he simply wants county government to hold a line on taxes and spending.

Fair enough, but with Democrats clinging to a 5-4 majority on the commission, Cogdell himself has become the swing vote. In other words, he could side with Republicans at any turn to block a tax hike or spending proposal.

We all have ambitions, and no one should fault Cogdell for eyeing a higher perch. But why pursue that goal in such a callous way, especially when Roberts already has said she won’t seek re-election?

As political ecosystems go, Mecklenburg County is a tropical paradise. Elected officials rarely act in ways that are overtly personal or viciously partisan (the aforementioned Mr. James notwithstanding). The danger for Cogdell is this: Political memories linger, and in the cutthroat environment he seems eager to create, he would not stand long as the only assassin clutching a knife.



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November 28, 2014
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