Councilman Bill Russell leaves the Republican Party

Asheville City Councilman Bill Russell changed his party affiliation from Republican to Unaffiliated this afternoon at the offices of the Buncombe County Board of Elections. “My job on council is non-partisan by nature,” he told Xpress. “Party politics has recently become more of a distraction than anything positive.”

Russell was narrowly elected in November 2007 and, after Carl Mumpower’s stunning defeat in the last election, he became the only Republican on City Council this past year. “I haven’t seen anything productive come from these partisan debates that come before Council, and frankly, I’m much more of an independent than what a Republican seems to be defined as these days.” He continued: “I serve all of Asheville; there are a lot of independents in this city — and a lot of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans too. It’s the reason I ran for Council.”

Asked if recent controversial events surrounding Buncombe County Republican Party Chairman Chad Nesbitt had anything to do with his decision, Russell stopped short of specific criticism, but he told Xpress: “If a party exists, it should be to help people get elected. It shouldn’t engage in these kind of antics that demonize people. It seems to me that some people are doing things to promote themselves over the party’s candidates and they’re not bringing people together … none of that does anything to help the party, the process, or the community in which we all live.”

Russell summed it up: “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I want to serve Asheville as effectively as I can,” he continued. “And I don’t want to have any part of these political games.”

In the interest of full disclosure, Michael Muller is a personal friend of Councilman Russell and — before his current stint at Xpress, managed Russell’s political campaign for the Asheville City Council in 2007.

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26 thoughts on “Councilman Bill Russell leaves the Republican Party

  1. J

    Can’t wait to watch the comments role as all of the self proclaimed liberals out there become ecstatic that the low tax, low service, anti-annexation, councilman who bought the 2007 elections will now run under the guise of an independent.

    I’m soo happy Bill said his party change is about serving Asheville, because, for a minute there, I thought this was about Bill. How so utterly convenient that Bill had a reporter on hand to write up a press release about his party change going into the year when Bill will have to run for re-election. Thankfully Bill’s party change isn’t one of those things were people promote themselves.

  2. Izzit me, or are things so much more wild and wooly now that folks can post anonymously? Thereby fanning the flames that already sharply divide us…and who benefits most by the divisions?

  3. slowlocal

    Good move, Bill. The deep concerns expressed by George Washington over the divisiveness of the two party system, ring especially true these days. From his 1796 farewell speech, “However combinations or associations of the above description [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

  4. Bert

    Makes me respect him a whole lot more. I think he should start calling himself a “Liberal Republican.” The Stompers hate that term so much; and it would be a step of regaining the political philosophy of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt; before the Dixiecrats took over the Republican Party.

  5. UnaffiliatedVoter

    EXCELLENT MOVE BILL RUSSELL ! ! ! When we erode the power of the RULING CLASS by becoming UNaffiliated, then positive CHANGE will come!

    The TWO MOST EVIL FORCES dominating our ‘free’ existence in America are the TWO MOST DOMINANT political parties, which NEED to be OUTLAWED and ABOLISHED! Require ALL candidates to run UNaffiliated in EVERY race!

  6. shadmarsh

    I’m guessing “one who knows” doesn’t apply to the Constitution…

  7. John

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised Russell didn’t do this sooner.

    As the saying goes, “all politics is local.” The BCGOP Chairmanship is a volatile post that no moderate to liberal Republican thinks of pursuing for more than a minute even if that’s what the party needs. In order to succeed in a growing urban area, the leadership of the local party needs to reflect the values of that area. Standing up for fiscal responsibility in local government is one thing but political antics designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the right is quite another. There is no Republican way to pick up the trash or Democratic way of fixing the water system. Unless the BCGOP membership comes to realize this, they have to settle for Moffit MAYBE getting elected as their crowing achievement.

    Take the D.A. race for example. Moore prides himself on sending as many “habitual” felons to prison to prison as possible. Odom plans on making sex crimes her top priority. I think if one polled the local community, Odom’s plans reflect local values much more than Moore’s as far as criminal justice issues are concerned. The only problem is Odom has an R next to her name and Moore has D. But because of the leadership issues within the BCGOP, Odom will most likely lose because of that R next to her name. This is the problem with the BCGOP. The R represents Chad Nesbitt and Don Yelton and all the other – ummm – “colorful folks” that have overrun the local Republican apparatus.

    I think Russell was in the same boat. He wants to gets the business of local government done in a fiscally responsible manner but was in danger of being dragged down by party leadership that didn’t reflect his values or the values of Asheville.

    I say good on Russell. The more party members the BCGOP looses, the sooner they will wake up and the local community can have a real conversation about the city and county’s financial state of affairs.

  8. UnaffiliatedVoter

    huh? political parties are NOT a Constitutional requirement, duh, ‘judge’…didnt they teech you that in government screwls?

  9. Since November 2008, the number of registered Republicans in Buncombe County has decreased by 1,386 people, and the Democrats have lost 890 people net.

    The number of unaffiliated people has risen by 2,956.

    For me, the shocker was that the Libertarians GAINED 183 people to almost double their number.

    Source: http://bit.ly/NC-data (The Carolina Transparency Project)

  10. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Challenge City Council to react likewise by denouncing their democrat affiliations in the interest of nonpartisanship! Can you imagine the impact message that Council could send IF they had the GUTS to do this???

  11. Thanks Mr. Coggins for that informative link. Wonder where the voters who were Republican or Democrats go when they remove themselves from the major two parties?. The unaffiliated count doesn’t match up….I suppose some could be dying off, but not as many as is shown on the graph. I find what’s happening in Madison and Macon, interesting too. Unaffiliated is the growing trend.

  12. @Davyne, aka Dixie Girl:

    Like most things in life, it is not a zero-sum situation. I suspect that most of the new number of UNAs come from people registering to vote instead of party transfers.

    I imagine that some are becoming disillusioned when they see the Obama administration screw up the country faster than the Bush 43 administration did.

    The situation will not change until they buck up, roll up their sleeves and wade into the party of their choice and work for the change they want.

    Our Founding Fathers designed our electoral system the way it is on purpose…to pit people and ideologies against one another…to limit the damage that an unchecked majority would do to our country. Gridlock is the best we can hope for, and when the people are the safest from their government.

  13. Piffy!

    [b]The situation will not change until they buck up, roll up their sleeves and wade into the party of their choice and work for the change they want. [/b]

    Agreed, 100%. Bickering from the sidelines with no concrete solutions serves no useful purpose for our country, but is a great distraction for the Corporations who lead our politicians around like puppets.

  14. UnaffiliatedVoter

    EMAIL City Council and ask them to, in solidarity, give up their democrat affiliations in the name of NONpartisanship! What a GREAT message this would send across the state and country, and they would become a national example of doing the right thing!

    ashevillenccouncil@ashevillenc.gov

    use it often!

  15. Piffy!

    [b]This is the problem with the BCGOP. The R represents Chad Nesbitt and Don Yelton and all the other – ummm – “colorful folks” that have overrun the local Republican apparatus.[/v]

    More evidence that Chad is a communist terrorist sleeper cell out to discredit the Republican party.

  16. Now Bobby, that Obama slam was not at all necessary. Fact is the graph shows a decline in all affiliations except a .03 % rise for Libertarians.

    The founders put into play the system of checks and balances due to Adam’s profound wisdom and awareness of human weakness. That .03 is nothing to write home about.
    We’re all deeply unhappy with things…maybe this is the way things are supposed to be. lol

  17. Piffy!

    [b]EMAIL City Council and ask them to, in solidarity, give up their democrat affiliations in the name of NONpartisanship! What a GREAT message this would send across the state and country, and they would become a national example of doing the right thing![/b]

    What would that accomplish?

  18. @Davyne

    It is the way things are supposed to be! A united humanity is a thing to be feared, and kept from happening with every fiber of our being.

    Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I slammed both administrations, my statement was


    I imagine that some are becoming disillusioned when they see the Obama administration screw up the country faster than the Bush 43 administration did.

    I think that James Madison said it best in Federalist Number 10 when he was explaining that the Founders had constructed our government in such a way that even a majority faction of interests will have a rough time getting their way. Wherever possible, the Founders took advantage of the easily dividable human spirit. They understood the lesson of the Tower of Babel, and sought to keep Americans divided by special interest so that an overwhelming majority would soon find itself broken up into factions.

    Most people read Federalist #10 as anti-faction only because they are against factions or parties. I read it that Madison was explaining how a larger, republican form, of government would better safeguard the citizens from injury and oppression from an unchecked democratic mob that could more easily form in the various states. Quote: “Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

    Here is a larger section of Federalist Number 10:

    There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

    There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

    It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

    The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

    The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

    The entire paper can be found at http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm

    The Anti-Federalist, of course, opposed the creation of the United States. They felt that it should be broken up into smaller republics because they thought that a nation as large as the 13 colonies could not long survive.

  19. “disillusioned when they see the Obama administration screw up the country faster than the Bush 43 administration did.”

    True…you got me on this one.. The season of disillusionment is across the board.

  20. Barry Summers

    Since November 2008, the number of registered Republicans in Buncombe County has decreased by 1,386 people

    Marty: The last time Spinal Tap toured America, they were booked into 10,000 seat arenas, and 15,000 seat venues, and it seems that now, on their current tour they’re being booked into 1,200 seat arenas, 1,500 seat arenas, and I was just wondering, does this mean the popularity of the group is waning?

    Ian: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no…no, no, not at all. I, I, I just think that the.. uh.. their appeal is becoming more selective.

  21. Barry Summers

    How so utterly convenient that Bill had a reporter on hand to write up a press release about his party change going into the year when Bill will have to run for re-election.

    I have to say that I agree. I respect Michael Muller, and I think he’s got integrity & he’s a good reporter, etc. However, it’s simply inappropriate to have a politician’s former campaign manager write up a story like this, even with a disclosure at the end.

    XPress, you’re walking a very delicate line, and I think you may have crossed it here.

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