Buncombe County Democrats had a big night Nov. 4, winning several key local races by razor-thin margins.
At this writing, it looks like Democrats will keep their 4-3 seat majority on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. According to unofficial results released by the N.C. Board of Elections, Democratic Commissioner Ellen Frost edged out Republican challenger Christina Merrill by a mere 513 votes.
However, Merrill did not concede the race on election night, noting that it’s a small margin and results are not official until certified by the state Board of Elections at a later date. The race was a rematch: Two years ago, Merrill was ahead on election night by more than 100 votes. But Frost won that race by 18 votes weeks later — after multiple recounts, the addition of provisional ballots from Warren Wilson College and an unsuccessful legal challenge by Merrill.
In the District 3 commissioner race, Republican Miranda DeBruhl beat unaffiliated candidate Nancy Waldrop. DeBruhl beat GOP incumbent David King in the primary. Waldrop is married to King and mounted a write-in campaign to get her name on the fall ballot.
Meanwhile, Democrats unseated both of Buncombe County’s Republican representatives in the N.C. House by thin margins.
In N.C. House District 115, political newcomer and Democrat John Ager beat Republican freshman Nathan Ramsey by only 493 votes. And in N.C. House District 116, two-term Republican incumbent Tim Moffitt fell to political newcomer Brian Turner, Democrat, by 963 votes.
Democrat Todd Williams will be Buncombe County’s next District Attorney, beating unaffiliated candidate Ben Scales by a hefty margin after defeating long-time incumbent Ron Moore in the primary.
Democratic Sheriff Van Duncan retained his position in a landslide against Republican challenger Mike Bustle, who was formerly the chief of the Lake Lure Police Department.
Here’s a look at the results in some of Buncombe County’s key races as well as responses from some of the candidates and photos from their election night events.
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, District 2
Vice Chair Ellen Frost, Democrat 15,293 votes (50.85 percent)
Christina Merrill, Republican 14,780 votes (49.15 percent)
“In 2012, it was not over until canvassing,” said Merrill. “When it’s that close, you have to wait for all the votes to be counted.” Laughing, she added: “I didn’t want it to be this close! … I was surprised. … I didn’t think it would be close.”
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, District 3
Miranda DeBruhl, Republican 13,567 votes (54.41 percent)
Nancy Waldrop, Unaffilliated 11,368 votes (45.59 percent)
“It’s all about the people, and all of the indicators [for my race] were positive. The first thing I want to do is sit down with county staff, there’s plenty of time to talk policy,” said DeBruhl. “I feel good – I know everyone says they feel ‘honored and humble,’ but that really is how you feel when the people from your community support you.”
“I think being an independent probably was not the most helpful place to be, but it was where I wanted to be and felt I needed to be, so I don’t really have any regrets about that,” said Waldrop. “I ran to give the citizens in District 3 a choice, they made their choice, and that’s the way that is. I had a wonderful group of people supporting me, I can’t say enough about how awesome this race was, how positive it was, and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
N.C. House 115
John Ager, Democrat 15,452 votes (50.81 percent)
Rep. Nathan Ramsey, Republican 14,959 votes (49.19 percent)
“There’s a lot we don’t like about politics these days, but what I want to tell you is – and this goes to many, many of the people in this room – I have been surrounded by people who have given of their time, of their money, of their skills and my overwhelming sense – and if you ever consider running for office, this is the great payoff – my overwhelming sense is the gratitude I feel to all of these people,” said Ager. “I just want to say that I am so looking forward to serving this community. We’re going to change the relationship between Raleigh and Buncombe County.”
“I appreciate all the folks out there who worked hard on the campaign, and some things you can overcome, some things you can’t, and you can’t respond to non-stop tv and direct mail and the millions of dollars — it would amount to about $3 million dollars of negative attacks. We won’t get into the veracity of those attacks, that’s just the way life is,” said Ramsey. “I knew going into this, I told other folks, if I win, it’ll be a miracle. And it won’t have anything to do with local issues, actually won’t have anything to do with state issues, it has to do with the fact that we got blown away in spending. … But that’s the way the game’s played, and I wish John all the best. I think he knows it all. I wish him all the best, God Bless Him and his family, that’s politics, I understand.”
N.C. House 116
Brian Turner, Democrat 13,236 votes (51.89 percent)
Rep. Tim Moffitt, Republican 12,273 votes (48.11 percent)
“I’d like to express my sincere congratulations to Brian Turner on his victory. I wish him every success serving the constituents of Buncombe County’s 116th House District and I will of course provide him any assistance I can during the upcoming transition,” said Moffitt in a written statement. “It has been the honor of my life serving the people of Buncombe County in the state legislature. I would like to thank everyone for their support, their good wishes, and their prayers.”
“I’ve said before I felt that Raleigh had really gone too far, too fast. Some of the votes and results we’re seeing tonight indicated that people felt that way as well,” said Turner. “I think it’s about now working to bring the community together, working with the other members of the delegation from Buncombe County and North Carolina, and helping build a stronger region.”
N.C. Senate District 49
Sen. Terry Van Duyn, Democrat 42,133 votes (61.27 percent)
Mark Crawford, Republican 26,632 votes (38.73 percent)
“This was about issues, and we win on issues. Thank you Buncombe County,” said Van Duyn.
Buncombe County Sheriff
Sheriff Van Duncan, Democrat 61,332 votes (72.27 percent)
Mike Bustle, Republican 23,533 votes (27.73 percent)
“I’m glad this election is over. It has been tough on a lot of folks, but I’m going to tell you, this is a great referendum on the people of Buncombe County see and what they want. They care in Buncombe County about education,” said Van Duncan. “They care about public safety. And they care about everybody else having the opportunity to have a good job, and a good life, and I’m looking forward to the next four years.”
Buncombe County District Attorney
Todd Williams, Democrat 48,434 votes (62.35 percent)
Ben Scales, Unaffilliated 29,251 votes (37.65 percent)
“Thank you for all of your support. We ensured change in a very important office – district attorney. Our message has been ratified twice and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without you,” said Williams.
Buncombe County Schools Board of Education, Reynolds District (all school board races are nonpartisan)
Cindy McMahon 30,748 votes (54.68 percent)
Lisa Baldwin 25,373 votes (45.13 percent)
Buncombe County Schools Board of Education, Enka District
Max Queen 31,415 votes (57.52 percent)
Nancy Cooper 23,108 votes (42.31 percent)
Buncombe County Schools Board of Education, Erwin District
Pat Bryant 18,529 votes (35.36 percent)
Stephanie Buckner 17,465 votes (33.33 percent)
Jason Summey 16,303 votes (31.11 percent)
NC District Court District 28
Ed Clontz 33,737 votes (52.87 percent)
J. Matthew Martin 30,071 votes (47.13 percent)
All of the results reported here are unofficial results via the N.C. Board of Elections. The results are not final until the Board of Elections certifies them at a later date. Read the unofficial results for all of the Buncombe County races here.