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.