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.