With primary results in, local pundits and political leaders pondered the obvious questions Tuesday night: what happened — and what next?
Toting his laptop in a yellow satchel next to the Asheville Brewing Co. on Coxe Avenue, prominent local blogger Gordon Smith, an ardent Democrat, offered his analysis on the race and the path forward.
“The most surprising part was that [Bill] Stanley pulled out [a narrow win] in the commissoners race — that’s going to create a really difficult condition come the general [election],” Smith told Xpress. “I would be fascinated to see how many unaffiliated voters went for Bill Stanley. My guess is it was unaffiliated voters who’d normally vote Republican who put Stanley back in. But how about Holly Jones [who grabbed the largest margin in the primary] getting 22 percent?”
Jones’ margin would later rise to 25 percent as the final votes were tallied. Smith added that he thought Stanley’s conservative views and anti-zoning stance had bought the unaffiliated voters out, and might make for problems come November. Specifically, Smith predicted that more liberal city voters would be reluctant to cast their votes for Stanley.
He said he felt pro-Barack Obama turnout had been a factor in local races.
“We’re talking about Obama winning by 11 points in a place [Hillary Clinton’s campaign] came six times to in the last two weeks. It had to be a factor. Last time turnout was in the teens, and now so much of it is urban. She was doing a lot of robocalling, figuring she could cut into his margin. It could be that campaigning over here kept her under 20 [point loss in the state].”
Because of the pro-Obama turnout, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners candidate Cecil Bothwell‘s loss surprised Smith, as Bothwell had visibly touted his support for the Obama campaign.
He said another surprise came on the Republican side, with longtime local activist Don Yelton coming in third in the Republican Board of Commissioners primary.
“That’s a big surprise, because he’s viewed as iconoclast, kind of a fringe candidate,” Smith said. “That’s going to be real interesting. It could be a Republican or Democrat board come November.”
After the primary season, everyone would “sleep for about two months,” he predicted, before September, when “things will start to heat up again. I’d urge everyone to keep an eye on where [Republican commissioner candidate] John Carroll gets his money. It’s going to be interesting to see where he gets his money.”
A few blocks away, Buncombe GOP Chair Tim Johnson called in local results to the state party offices as he and fellow Republicans clustered around a laptop on top of a newspaper box outside Magnolia’s Raw Bar and Grill.
“I’m happy — our candidates did well and we’re looking forward to a very spirited and highly visible general election,” Johnson told Xpress. He said he was planning on challenging the Democratic candidates at state and local levels to a “debate week” leading up to early voting, “where we start with our commissioner candidates and debate. I want to debate commissoner candidates as well as the congressional race, where Carl Mumpower will probably be challenging [current Democratic Rep.] Heath Shuler, then expanding to statewide positions. I want people to know the difference between us and them.”
He defined that difference as: “We’re for small business, we’re family-based, we’re progressive, we’re entrepreneurs, we want less government intervention, we don’t want to save the world.”
Meanwhile, Pinky Zalkin, walking into the near-riotous Democratic rally at Asheville Brewing Co. (pictured at right), said she felt it was “a travesty” that Bothwell had fallen short of defeating Stanley.
“The thing is though, is that our man Obama is doing so well,” Zalkin said. “It’s a pleasant surprise too how well he’s doing in Indiana. That was supposed to be a double-digit loss.”
— David Forbes, staff writer
photo by Jonathan Welch