Democrats and Republicans in Buncombe County have been busy lately — the Democrats packed the ornate fifth-floor chamber of the Buncombe County Courthouse on April 17 to hold their annual party convention, while Republicans gathered the same day to celebrate the grand opening of their new headquarters in a defunct carpet warehouse on New Leicester Highway.
Democrats heard from a throng of candidates and current elected officials, including Congressman Heath Shuler, N.C. Senate majority leader Martin Nesbitt, state Rep. Jane Whilden, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Gantt and others. Also present were Sheriff Van Duncan, District Attorney Ron Moore, state Rep. Susan Fisher, County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Bill Stanley, commissioners Carol Peterson, Holly Jones, K. Ray Bailey, and Asheville City Council members Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith, among others.
"It was nice to hear from so many candidates and elected officials," said Jake Quinn, the Buncombe County Democratic Party secretary and one of the chief organizers of the event. "The convention went smoothly and we had a good time; but I don't mind waiting a year to do it again," Quinn told Xpress with his signature cheeky grin.
On the other side of the political spectrum — and the other side of town — Buncombe County Republicans gathered to hear newly elected county chairman Chad Nesbitt rally about 100 party loyalists. The meeting opened with a demonstration by Asheville High School's JROTC, followed by the Rev. Wendell Runion, the newly appointed chairman of the GOP's Faith Committee. He decried the "liberal, socialistic" agenda of the Asheville City Council — including its consideration of same-sex domestic partnership benefits for city employees. Runion is an evangelical minister perhaps best known for organizing the "We Still Pray" rallies that were launched in 2000.
A number of candidates were present, including four of the six men running for the chance at unseating Shuler this fall: Dr. Dan Eichenbaum, Ed Krause, Jeff Miller and former Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman.
John Carroll — who mounted an unsuccessful bid to join the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2008 and who will face Fisher in the 114th District in November — spoke briefly, as did Bridgette Odom, a newly minted candidate for Buncombe County District Attorney. Dickie Green, who is running for Buncombe County sheriff, also made an appearance, as did perennial candidates R.L. Clark and Don Yelton, both of whom are running in the Republican primary in N.C. Senate District 49 for the chance to unseat Martin Nesbitt, the stepfather of their new party chairman.
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