Republican mayoral candidate Kenny Smith raised money, did the legwork, picked the right issue (infrastructure), had solid City Council cred, had a shaky Democratic mayor in office – and still lost by a bunch Tuesday night to your next Charlotte mayor, Vi Lyles. What happened? Let’s piece some clues together. Clue No. 1: Early voting. Smith knew that he would trail after the early ballots were counted. After all, more than 50 percent of those early voters were registered Democrats. Still, Smith had hoped to snag some of those voters, specifically middle-aged Democrats who might be receptive to his moderate message. That didn’t happen. Smith trailed by 8,000-plus votes after early voting, more than double what his campaign could overcome if everything went right on election day. But this is important: It wasn’t only Smith, but all Republicans, who faced that early voting deficit. That’s a sign that Democrats, including the educated voters Smith had hoped to nab, voted what amounted to a straight ticket. They had no intention of voting for any Republican, moderate or not. Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW Clue No. 2: Precinct 50. Four years ago, Republican Edwin Peacock won this south Charlotte precinct between South Boulevard and Park Road with 57 percent of the vote. Precinct 50 is chock full of voters with a college education, and it’s been a must-have for Republicans who kept previous mayoral elections close. Smith lost it 54-46, and he also underperformed in some of south Charlotte’s moderately affluent districts. A note: Precinct 50 saw a 51 percent increase in turnout, mirroring a 52 percent increase across Charlotte from 2015’s mayoral election. Despite a solid but quiet campaign from Lyles, voters showed up. That’s resolve. Clue No. 3: Virginia. Our northern neighbor turned a much bluer shade Tuesday night. Democrat Ralph Northam handily won what seemed to be a tight race for governor, easily outperforming Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers. The real news, however, was that Democrats walloped Republicans in races throughout the state. A transgender Democrat beat a prominent