This year, there is no primary for the Asheville City Council races due to a low number of candidates, an occurrence so unusual even the Buncombe County Board of Elections doesn’t know the last time it happened. Since 1981, there’s been a primary in every Council election.
This year, there are only five Council candidates (a sixth filed, but dropped out days after the race formally began). Since there are three Council seats up for grabs this election season, this means no primary — just the Nov. 5 general election. This year, incumbents Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith are running for re-election. Former Coleman CEO Gwen Wisler, activist Jonathan Wainscott, and former APD officer Mike Lanning are also in the race.
The Board of Elections records go back to the early ‘80s, and every single time, there have been enough candidates that a primary was required. “Past that, we’d have to go dig out boxes from the clerk’s office,” Election Services Director Trena Parker tells Xpress.
Council elections have had notoriously low voter turnout, but generally no shortage of candidates. In 2011, eight candidates ran (not including Council member Bill Russell, who withdrew in late September). In 2009, there were nine, and two years earlier, 15 candidates contended in the primary.
This raises the question of why so few people were willing to throw their hat into the ring this time around. From major budget decisions to development to fights with the Raleigh legislature, there’s certainly no lack of controversy or action in local government. Is it apathy? Satisfaction with the current Council? Something else?
Opinions and views welcome, Ashevilleans. Please comment below.