It would have been quite poetic, actually – a kind of small-town political reprise to those Ali-Frazier bouts of yesteryear. As the world eulogized “Smokin’” Joe Frazier last week, it was tempting for some to celebrate, romanticize even, the possibility of a political underdog like Scott Stone making history.
Yes, some dared to imagine Stone, the dreamy Republican mayoral contender, stepping into the ring against Foxx, Charlotte’s big money incumbent, and putting the native son – Pow! – flat on the mat.
So much for possibilities.
When the contest was over, images of Ali-Frazier had been replaced – at least for me – by moments in the 2006 Rocky Balboa flick. Scott Stone, who lost with only 34 percent of the vote, told me: “While the mayor won convincingly, he also came out wounded.”
Somehow, though, I heard Rocky’s soliloquy: “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. …”
Or something like that.
Actually, Stone said he saw the knockout punch months before it landed.
“We knew on June 30,” he said, referring to the day the candidates reported how much their campaign had raised. The figures were grim: Foxx’s $532,000 versus Stone’s $79,000.
“That was the end for us,” Stone said. “People just assumed that we couldn’t win and so it was that much harder to raise money.”
Stone tried to keep faith: He jabbed Foxx where he could, over Charlotte’s unemployment rate of around 10 percent (“People know that the economy is bad here, and the mayor tried to spin it as if it’s doing better than it is.”), and buckling to organized labor to bring the DNC to Charlotte next year.
OK, so message – or rather a lack of a punchy one – may have been a problem for Stone. This, the paltry war chest, and the strong incumbent pretty much sealed Stone’s fate.
The loss also positions Foxx for what Stone believes has always been Foxx’s long-term play –to use the DNC convention to catapult onto a larger stage, a la Barack Obama. Who would have guessed one soaring speech by an unknown Illinois state senator at the DNC’s 2004 convention would be a dress-rehearsal for our future president?
“I think he sees himself a lot like the president,” Stone told me, a couple weeks prior to the election. “I think this mayor is looking for his moment at the DNC convention in his hometown to be in the national spotlight, and turn it into an election for governor. Whether Barack Obama wins or not doesn’t matter; you’re (Foxx) an African American governor in a southern state, in a swing state that you have to have to win the presidency. That’s a credible person to run for president, right there. Yes, it sounds crazy and far fetched, but so does a state senator fromIllinois being elected president four years later.
For now, Stone claims far more modest plans, like re-committing himself to North Carolina Heroes Fund. The fund raises money for military families who are suffering financial hardships. And for those wondering, his chin is still very much up.
“There’s no good that comes from moping around hanging my head,” he says.
“Do I regret that I gave Anthony Foxx a tough challenge? No, I was doing the thing that I needed to do. Shouldn’t we give strong opposition, and challenge his ideas with better ideas?”
Of course, I only heard Rocky Balboa describing something that sounded like courage.
“It’s your right to listen to your gut. It ain’t nobody’s right to say no after you earned the right to be what you wanna be and do what you wanna do.”