The campaign trail: WNC congressional races heat up

It was a busy week on the campaign trail, with 11th District Republican candidates Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson locking horns ahead of their July 17 runoff contest.

The candidates began the week by facing off July 9 in a downtown Asheville radio debate hosted by Matt Mittan and broadcast on WZGM 1350 AM. Although the candidates seemed largely in agreement on the substance of economic and health care issues, the mood in the studio was tense, with neither candidate offering to shake hands after it was over, said Mittan.

While they were on the air, the Meadows campaign sent out an email announcing the endorsement of Brevard District Attorney Jeff Hunt. Hunt finished third in the May 8 primary, garnering 14 percent of the vote compared to 38 percent for Meadows and Patterson’s 24 percent.

Meanwhile, another former 11th District Republican candidate — Dan Eichenbaum — announced that same day that he likes both candidates, and would not be endorsing one over the other.

But the big Hunt endorsement proved to be only the first of several announced by the Meadows campaign this week as it seeks to build momentum going into Tuesday.

On July 10, the campaign racked up a few more sheriff endorsements, bringing the total number of 11th District sheriffs backing Meadows to eight. On July 11 he earned the support of FreedomWorks, a conservative national group chaired by former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey. And on July 12 the campaign announced the endorsement of Patriot Voices, a conservative national group chaired by former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

“Whether it’s his commitment to fighting for the unborn, improving education by returning decision-making back to the local level, standing up for religious freedom, repealing Obamacare or shrinking the size of government, Mark Meadows has demonstrated that he is the right candidate at the right time,” Santorum declared in a statement.

The winner of the Republican contest will face Democrat Hayden Rogers in the fall. And although the 11th District was redrawn last year to exclude most of Asheville — making it one of the most conservative districts in the state — the Rogers campaign announced this week that it has the strong backing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

The campaign earned a spot in the DCCC’s competitive “Red to Blue” program, which is reserved for the highest priority Democratic races across the country and will help it garner national resources. Rogers is the former chief of staff to incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler.

Endorsement kerfuffle

Meanwhile, 10th District Democratic nominee Patsy Keever found herself on the defensive this week after a July 11 Asheville Citizen-Times headline declared that she “won’t endorse Obama.” In a Facebook message posted later that day, she asserted that the AC-T “misconstrued” her statement. “For the record, of course I endorse our president,” she added.

However, her November opponent, Republican incumbent Patrick McHenry, immediately sought to capitalize on the situation by sending out a statement that portrayed her as pandering and contradictory in her views toward the Democratic president.

Likewise, WWNC News radio 570 host Pete Kaliner criticized Keever on his July 12 show, accusing her of using political double-speak to try to pander to Obama supporters without repelling conservative voters in the 10th District. The 10th District was redrawn last year to include most of Asheville but remains only slightly less conservative overall than the 11th District.

The next day, July 13, Keever appeared on the “Take a Stand with Matt and Agnes” radio show, broadcast on WZGM 1350 AM, and reiterated the sentiments she expressed in her Facebook messages. “No one who knows me thinks I flip-flopped,” she said. “I feel like there was a mischaracterization in the media. … I strongly support the president.”

 

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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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