The campaign trail: A look at what happened this week in local politics

It was another busy week in local politics:Mark Meadows won the 11th District GOP runoff election, gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory and Jeb Bush stumped in Asheville and much more.

Although turnout was abysmal, Meadows routed his opponent, Vance Patterson, winning 76 percent of the vote in the the July 17 runoff contest. The next day, Patterson released a statement congratulating the winner and supporting him against Democrat Hayden Rogers.

About 100 Meadows supporters gathered at the Hampton Inn in Fletcher Tuesday night for a barbecue-flavored celebration, and many were hopeful about their candidate’s chances in November.

Meadows used the occasion to praise God for the victory – as well as to slam Rogers as a Washington insider tied to President Barack Obama’s liberal agenda (watch video of Meadows speaking at the event here). Rogers previously worked as incumbent Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler’s chief of staff. The 11th District was redrawn last year to exclude most of Asheville, making it the most conservative political turf in the state.

In response, Rogers released a statement congratulating Meadows but cautioning that he looks forward to pointing out the “profound difference” between the two men as the campaign unfolds.

Up until July 17, Rogers had been free to focus on raising money and organizing for the fall campaign while his potential Republican opponents duked it out. And according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, he’s amassed a huge financial advantage, collecting about $491,000 more than the total amount raised by both Republicans, excluding personal loans.

Still, Meadows will probably see a major jump in fundraising in the coming weeks, as he consolidates his support and unifies the party after months of internal rancor.

The day after his runoff win, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that he’d achieved “Young Gun” status, the organization’s top-tier designation.

However, Rogers achieved a similar designation from his party a week earlier, and it immediately went on the attack on his behalf, releasing a statement July 18 that slammed Meadows as a Florida native and right-wing extremist who “supports dangerous policies that cost seniors and hard-working families while giving tax breaks to millionaires and companies shipping American jobs overseas.”

The momentum and national support behind both candidates is setting the stage for what looks to be a bare-knuckle power struggle heading into the fall.

McCrory and Bush raise funds in Asheville, critics raise ire
On Thursday, July 19, the DoubleTree in Biltmore became the nexus of battle in the state gubernatorial race.

Republican candidate Pat McCrory was joined at the hotel by former Florida governor Jeb Bush for a brunch fundraiser attended by about 200 supporters. The two posed for photos and answered a number of friendly questions from attendees, making the case for Republican leadership in the state after years of having Democrats at the helm of the executive branch.

“I love this guy; he’s going to be a great governor,” Bush gushed at one point. McCrory, who narrowly lost to Gov. Bev Perdue in 2008, has been ahead of Democratic opponent Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in recent polls.

Meanwhile, just outside the promotional event, about 20 protestors gathered on the street corner who felt McCrory hasn’t been transparent enough about his work history at lobbying firm Moore & Van Allen and Duke Energy.

Despite increasing demands from Democrats, activists and reporters, McCrory has refused to release past tax returns they say would give the public a better idea of what he did at those companies. A plane whirled above the DoubleTree flying a banner that read: “Who Pays McCrory,” along with the Web address for www.whopaysmccrory.com, the organization behind the display.

Noting that Bush released more than 20 years of tax returns as a gubernatorial candidate, protest organizer Gerrick Brenner asserted: “McCrory rubbing elbows with Bush is dripping with irony.” Bush previously called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release his tax returns. But no one asked about the issue at the brunch and it wasn’t discussed by Bush or McCrory. A 30 minute press conference was originally supposed to be part of the Asheville event, but the campaign canceled it the day before, citing scheduling conflicts. However, some critics speculated that the real reason was because the campaign wanted to avoid any questions about the issue.

Both the McCrory and Dalton campaigns released statements the day of the event that tried to spin it to their liking. 

Keever returns from Raleigh; Moffitt kicks campaign in to gear
In other developments, 10th District Democratic candidate Patsy Keever held a July 19 fundraising event at Asheville Pizza Company downtown that drew more than 200 supporters.

After spending several weeks in Raleigh performing her duties as a member of the Statehouse, Keever is currently in the process of restructuring her campaign team for the fall contest against Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry.

Jon Bray, who managed her successful primary campaign, returned home to Washington, D.C., at the end of June in order to spend more time with his new wife. He was replaced with Bruce Mulkey, who was previously her communications director. An Asheville resident since 1997, Mulkey worked for the Obama campaign in 2008 and volunteered for Keever during her 2010 Statehouse run. Perhaps best known locally as a former longtime columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, Keever says: “he brings the personal attributes and leadership style that will allow us to run a cohesive, well-organized and successful campaign.”

Meanwhile, Buncombe County Republican Statehouse Rep. Tim Moffitt has been kicking his re-election campaign in to high gear. Representing the 116th District, which encompasses most of southern and western Buncombe County, he faces a challenge from Democrat Jane Whilden, whom he previously defeated in 2010.

Although Democrats and others have lambasted the freshman legislator throughout his term, he recently met with a friendly crowd in the Biltmore Lake community. Attendees thanked him for the recent passage of an anti-annexation bill he spearheaded, sparing them from incorporation into the city of Asheville.

Moffitt will host a town hall meeting today, Saturday, July 21 at the Skyland Fire Department in south Asheville from 10 a.m. to noon.

Read a roundup of the previous week’s political news here.

Check out Xpress’ politics and election landing page here.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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