Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith was hit in the head by Lael Gray’s campaign manager, David Roat, at an election-night party, according to reports.
Xpress contacted Council member Smith, who elaborated on the events. “I went to Lael’s party, I was giving her a hug and I got hit in the back of the head,” Smith says. “I went into a crouch, there were a few more blows, he was pulled off of me, and it was over.”
Asheville resident Lindsey Simerly, who has worked for Rep. Heath Shuler as well as on Smith’s 2009 City Council campaign, was struck while attempting to intervene. “Lindsey Simerly was one of the people trying to pull him off of me,” Smith says. “Evidently, [Roat] was trying to hit me and, as they were trying to pull him off, he struck [Simerly] in the stomach.”
Roat served as Smith’s campaign manager in his successful 2009 City Council bid. “He and I parted ways before the primaries,” Smith says. When asked to describe the parting, and if it contributed to the events, Smith said, “It was a campaign decision. It was over two years ago. I don’t know what motivated [the attack].”
Roat told Xpress that he served as Gray’s campaign manager. Incumbent candidate Jan Davis surpassed Gray by 40 votes in the unofficial Board of Elections results of the Nov. 8 election, placing him as the third winner behind Chris Pelly and Marc Hunt, the top vote-getter. Gray said earlier that she’s going to wait for the official count, including absentee and provisional ballots, before making a decision on asking for a recount.
Xpress spoke with Gray about the incident. “I honestly don’t know what provoked David,” she says.” As far as I could tell, it really didn’t have anything to do with my campaign. It was definitely not something I was happy to see. It was a very unfortunate thing.” Gray said that she remains focused the final election results. “Quite honestly, at this point I really want to focus on getting the final count on the election,” she says.
Immediately following the altercation, Roat left the premises, according to Smith. “I went outside, and then he walked past me and walked down the sidewalk,” Smith says. “The police were called. I went down [to the police station and] had a warrant taken out for his arrest. He was arrested last night and released.”
Smith and Roat haven’t had any contact since the incident. “I was told by the magistrate last night that I would receive a subpoena sometime in January to appear,” Smith says.
Xpress contacted Roat for his take on the situation; he declined to discuss the incident in detail. “I’d be interested in what’s being said about me, though,” he said. “I might come back with a statement later.” In response to Smith’s account of the events, Roat said “Hmm … interesting,” before saying “I’ve got some phone calls to make.”
A Nov. 9 story in the Asheville Citizen-Times first reported the incident:
“Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith was punched in the head Tuesday night at an election gathering at a Merrimon Avenue restaurant. …
“David Roat, 43, was charged in the incident with simple assault and assault on a female, according to the Buncombe County Magistrate’s Court. He was released on a written promise to appear in court.”