The heated race to be Asheville’s next Register of Deeds came to a head on Wednesday, Feb. 23, when the Executive Democratic Committee elected Drew Reisinger to succeed Otto DeBruhl.
In a second round of voting that lasted late into the night, Reisinger squeaked out a victory over DeBruhl’s long-time Assistant Register of Deeds JoAnn Morgan. Reisinger garnered 53 percent of the vote compared to Morgan’s 47 percent.
Buncombe Democratic Party Chair Charles Carter was eliminated after the first round of voting, when he received 20 percent of the vote compared to Reisinger’s 41 percent and Morgan’s 39 percent.
We’ll have a full report in the March 2 issue of Xpress.
For more background on the race, read our Feb. 8 article, “Doing the Deeds,” or the blog post below, (originally published Feb 22).
The heated race to be Asheville’s next register of deeds comes to a head on Wednesday, Feb. 23, when the Executive Democratic Committee meets to elect a successor to Otto DeBruhl.
When DeBruhl announced his retirement Jan. 31 after 32 years on the job, he proposed that Assistant Register of Deeds JoAnn Morgan take the helm, declaring, “There is not a more qualified Register of Deeds in the state of North Carolina than JoAnn.” But on Feb. 3, Drew Reisinger announced his candidacy for the job, and just a few days ago, Democratic Party Chair Charles Carter followed suit.
In an interview with Xpress, Carter came out of the gate swinging, saying he had better management skills than both of his opponents.
“I’m much more of a team builder,” he asserted. “I think I’ve got the talent to come in and be the steady hand at the wheel and make sure that we’re continuing to deliver services to the public as well as really developing that office.
“I’ve never seen Drew manage anything more than Patsy’s campaign,” Carter continued. “I saw some of the effect on Gordon Smith‘s campaign, but I didn’t see much more than that. And JoAnn, I’ve never seen her manage, because she’s always been Otto’s assistant and just kind of executed what he did.”
Carter also criticized Reisinger’s statement (posted on his website) that his “first order of business will be to sit down with the county manager and commissioners to discuss an immediate pay cut in my salary.” With an annual salary of $128,850, DeBruhl was one of the highest-paid registers in the state, with one of the largest, most highly compensated staffs.
However, Carter asserts that “it’s a little bit of a political stunt just to say ‘I’m going to lower my salary.’ Because you don’t consider the ripple effects throughout the entire department. And that’s a little bit reckless.”
The former state senator and current owner of Mountain Java coffeehouse on Merrimon Avenue said he favors a more holistic approach, noting that the county is studying every department’s pay structure in an effort to cut the budget by 7 to 10 percent to deal with the current economic challenges.
“I think you have to look at the entire department and make sure you’re allowing for bonuses and incentivizing your employees,” Carter explained. “Because if you walk in and cut your pay, what does that do to the other pays below you? What does that do to incentivize the workers to deliver for the people of Buncombe County?”
In his pitch to committee members — 178 Buncombe County precinct chairs and vice chairs, Democratic elected officials and state leaders — Carter’s been highlighting his success as the head of the county party in last year’s tough election cycle.
“In the middle of a Republican landslide, we did very well in Buncombe,” he noted. “And I think they saw that leadership. They saw what I was able to do with the party that they love.”
But Carter’s not the only candidate touting their political talents. Reisinger notes that he’s fresh from managing Patsy Keever’s successful Statehouse campaign, and has worked to elect City Council member Smith, Congressman Heath Shuler and President Barack Obama. And Morgan, in a previous statement, said that she was instrumental in DeBruhl’s eight successful campaigns, as well as her own winning run for City Council in 1975.
Proposed rules for tomorrow’s special election call for a secret ballot, with voters having a weighted say depending on their position and precinct. For example, a vote by a precinct chair representing a heavily Democratic precinct will carry more weight than a vote by a precinct chair representing a less Democratic precinct. To win, a candidate must get a clear majority. If, on the first vote, none of the candidates exceed the fifty-percent threshold, the candidate receiving the least amount of votes will be forced to drop out and the Executive Committee will hold a re-vote among the remaining two.
That could make for “a very long night,” said Carter.