Get ready for City Council campaign season

The two-week window for filing as a candidate in the next Asheville City Council election is still two months away (July 3 through 17), but that hasn’t stopped some early birds from making their announcements or checked the buzz around the community.

Two of three Council incumbents and Mayor Terry Bellamy have so far announced their intentions to defend their seats in November. Council member Robin Cape made it official in December, while incumbent Carl Mumpower sat on the fence until just a few weeks ago.

Still in the “will he or won’t he?” column is Kelly Miller, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce executive VP who was appointed to Council in December to fill the seat vacated by Holly Jones. Miller has filed a Statement of Organization (fundraising prerequisite) with the Buncombe Board of Elections, but told Xpress recently that he is not yet ready to make an announcement.

So far, three candidates have made early announcements. Most recently, attorney Esther Manheimer entered the ring, filing her Statement of Organization on April 27. In January, writer, activist and former county-commissioner candidate Cecil Bothwell launched his campaign. And in March, political blogger Gordon Smith kicked off his run for the office.
But, like buds on the trees, candidates emerge in the spring. One place to look for them is the list of 47 people who applied for Jones’ seat last year. The public scrutiny involved could make for a good trial balloon for people considering a Council bid. Manheimer was one of those, making it to the final interview process along with four others. Sylvia Farrington is another, and indicated in December her consideration of a run this year, despite removing her name from the appointment short list.

Still to be spotted is a challenger for Bellamy. That point has not been lost on another of the 47: Artist Jen Bowen, who serves on a handful of city committees including the one working on the Downtown Master Plan, put her name out as a mayoral candidate as an April Fool’s joke. But, she says, community reaction made her begin thinking seriously about the idea. And her resolve is strengthened by the idea of Bellamy running unopposed.

“No major [office] should go unopposed,” Bowen told Xpress. “The point is to challenge someone to earn their seat.”

Bowen is not ready to make it official, however, saying she will wait until the filing date to see if any other candidates come forward.

Also likely to bring some color to the campaign season is homeless advocate Christopher Chiaramonte, aka Brother Christopher. Though he also has not made a formal announcement, he told Xpress that he intends to run for mayor as a write-in candidate—filing no paperwork, spending no money and not participating in the primary election.


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4 thoughts on “Get ready for City Council campaign season

  1. Gordon Smith

    Thanks for the roundup, Brian. I’m not sure that it means he’s definitely in, but Councilman Miller appeared at an event last month which featured candidates for Asheville City Council. He spoke there along with Bothwell, Cape, Manheimer, and I.

  2. Gordon Smith

    My campaign website is here:

    While I certainly am a “political blogger”, there’s a lot more to me than that.

    My bio from the site:

    “I’ve spent my adult life working to help people, solve problems and make change. Born in the sands of central Florida in 1970, I was raised by my mother, father and extended family. My grandfather is an orange grower there, working his own grove for sixty years. My mother is a high school mathematics teacher for the Florida Virtual School, and my father is the chief administrator for two independent living facilities for the elderly.

    I moved away from Florida in 1988 to attend Oxford College of Emory University outside of Atlanta, GA. Three years later, I transferred to Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, where I majored in English. While at Warren Wilson I worked on the Plumbing Crew and initiated a reading project at Black Mountain elementary school for part of my service project.

    After graduation, I joined the Brethren Volunteer Service and moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland where I led community reconciliation efforts between Protestant and Catholic teens. Upon my return from Europe, I landed briefly in central Ohio, where I was employed as an environmental educator. I then moved to St. Simons Island, GA. There I became the director of an after school program for children with mental illness. In 1999 I returned to western North Carolina to attend graduate school at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

    Having achieved my Master’s degree in Community Counseling, I went to work for the public mental health system as a Child and Family therapist. It was about this time that I married my wife, Rachael. I have worked for public mental health, public/private mental health, and a for-profit private agency. I now direct my own private practice in Asheville.

    Working with children, adults, and families from across the socioeconomic spectrum has kept me in touch with the real life needs of families here in Asheville. I anticipate remaining in private practice for years to come. Understanding others’ perspectives and working to create change is a cornerstone of my personality. In this vein of creating community and advocating for meaningful change, I established Drinking Liberally, a group dedicated to bringing political conversations into public spaces. I co-founded a collective of writers, artists, photographers, scientists, and more called BlogAsheville that now enjoys over 150 active members.

    In November, 2008, councilman Brownie Newman nominated me for the City Council seat vacated by Holly Jones. I was endorsed in that process by Commissioner Jones as well as former Rep. Charles Thomas, a Republican with whom I worked on several issues.

    My home is in west Asheville, near the River Arts District. I enjoy chess, disc golf, writing, reading, film, art, and conversation.”

  3. “My home is in west Asheville, near the River Arts District. I enjoy chess, disc golf, writing, reading, film, art, and conversation.”

    Gordon –
    do you also enjoy long walks on the beach? ;-)

    But in all seriousness,
    There are some fabulous folks who have already announced City Council candidacy, and there are some great folks who are still considering.
    I would defend, however, that a major issue with Asheville city elections is the incredible cost & waste that comes with an election campaign as we in America are currently trained to expect.

    How much money was spent on the last major city election, and how much money will get put into name recognition in this election? And what better projects could be created, spurred, or supported with that kind of money? If a person finds that in order to be considered a viable candidate they must raise $60-$100K to get a City Council seat, do citizen’s really think that allows for authentic community representation? This is the biggest hurdle in politics, policy, and participatory democracy.

    An election is an crucial part of the democratic process and I applaud any candidate that chooses to access a creative, cost-efficient, environmentally sustainable local approache to campaigning.

  4. Gordon Smith

    …and pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, JBo. ;-)

    You’ll be glad to know that my campaign is utilizing local businesses for our campaign materials. Our t-shirts are organic with soy-based inks. And, being the penny pincher I am, the campaign is aiming to spend as little as possible to secure a victory.

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