Delegates to the Buncombe County Democratic Party’s annual convention elected Emmet Carney their new chair on April 9, marking a quick and peaceful end to a race that had shifted rapidly in recent weeks. Several candidates had thrown their hats into the ring and then removed them, including Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell, former party Chair Kathy Sinclair and Lindsey Simerly, the director of field and outreach for Rep. Heath Shuler.
“You've delivered us a potentially brilliant future,” Carney told the assembled delegates. “Together we are going to rise and seek our destiny. … We will maintain the moral high ground, we will deliver a slate of vetted and tested candidates, and we will rise above them and over them and through them like a righteous tide.”
While local activist Grant Millin had publicly declared a run for the position, he did not contest Carney's election at the convention.
The only contested post was second vice chair, with incumbent Isaac Coleman edging out Michael Vavrek, 255-245.
“I have served this position for two terms,” noted Coleman. “I've worked hard for this party, and I'm qualified.”
Vavrek praised Coleman for his service but said he had a better plan for training and organizing precinct chairs and handling potential primary battles.
“We are all committed to Democratic principles; we all want all Democrats to win,” noted Vavrek. “If we're disciplined in our planning and something unexpected happens, we'll keep our heads while everyone else is losing theirs.”
In the contest between Vavrek and Coleman (who is African-American), some delegates raised the issue of diversity in the party's leadership. Under party rules, the chair and first vice chair must be of opposite gender. The guidelines also recommend having at least one “person of color” and someone under age 35, according to party secretary Jake Quinn.
Coleman, however, said he was glad there was no outright requirement to choose a racial minority, asserting, “Now we can see where our hearts are: We can vote on qualifications.”
After his victory, Coleman declared: “Diversity is important; I was told that 50 years ago, this was the party of all white people. We're making some progress.”
The party also elected Linda Fowler as first vice chair, Sherry Henline as third vice chair and Myriam Cote as secretary (replacing Quinn, who will now serve as treasurer).
The mood was mostly jovial, though there was contention over how best to respond to the Asheville City Council’s Nov. 23, 2010 vote raising the threshold for a Council hearing on downtown development projects from 100,000 to 175,000 square feet. A resolution urging Council to lower the threshold to 50,000 square feet barely squeaked by 147-144.
The delegates also approved resolutions opposing a state Senate bill to remove the cap on charter schools (which critics say would take funding away from public schools), opposing Republic state Rep. Tim Moffitt's proposed legislation establishing district elections for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners by district. A resolution condemning the leadership of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed.
— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at email@example.com.