The Beat: The Asheville City Council race is on

The race is on: Council member Bill Russell and candidate Marc Hunt (in background) were among the first to file for the race on July 1. At the end of filling July 15, nine candidates had joined the contest. photo by Jerry Nelson

Nine candidates — including two incumbents — will vie for three Asheville City Council seats.

As of the July 15 filing deadline, the candidates are: Council members Jan Davis and Bill Russell, Greenway Commission member (and former chair) Marc Hunt, libertarian activist Tim Peck, Haw Creek Community Association President Chris Pelly, engineer (and active Republican) Mark Cates, community activist Lael Gray, retired schoolteacher (and former Boone Town Council member) Saul Chase, and LGBT activist TJ Thomasson.

Notably absent from the list is Vice Mayor Brownie Newman, who said he decided not to seek a third term so he can focus on his work as vice president of FLS Energy.

“I want to thank all of my friends and supporters in Asheville for the opportunity to serve on Asheville City Council for the past seven-and-a-half years,” Newman said in a statement. “I continue to see local government as a place where people can make a real difference in their community. I look forward to working with my colleagues on Council for the remainder of 2011 and congratulate the Council members who have chosen to run for re-election, as well as the other citizens who will stand for election this fall.”

Newman added that he’s proud of the current Council’s commitment to energy independence and an approach that “has been both progressive and fiscally responsible.”

This year’s Council race is off to a slow start. As of late April, all three incumbents remained publicly undecided. Russell didn't announce his candidacy until July 1, the first day of filing. Davis’ intentions weren’t clear until he filed July 13. Only three candidates — Hunt, Pelly and Cates — threw their hats in the ring before June. Chase, Thomasson and Gray all announced their candidacies during the filing period.

The Oct. 11 primary will narrow the field to six candidates; the top three vote-getters in the Nov. 8 general election will win seats on Council.
— David Forbes

Buncombe County has 15.5 same-sex couples per 1,000 residents — more than any other county in North Carolina, according to a study by the Williams Institute based on U.S. census data. Durham County ranked second with 12.7 per 1,000 residents.

Asheville’s rate is even higher: 19.7, substantially greater than the city of Durham's 13.2.

Other Western North Carolina counties also ranked high: From Avery to Macon, a 12-county area displays some of the state’s highest rates of male same-sex couples: more than three per 1,000 residents. Meanwhile, a five-county area from Madison to Transylvania has some of the highest rates for all-female couples: more than five per 1,000.

According to an Asheville Citizen-Times report, the number of same-sex couples in Buncombe County has increased by 110 percent in the last decade. The Williams study also found that up to 25 percent of same-couples in WNC are raising children.

But in another survey the group did last year, researchers found that around one in seven same-sex couples weren’t counted by the census: Some did not identify themselves as partners, and some live in homes where neither is the householder.

Based at the UCLA School of Law, the institute conducts research on sexual-orientation and gender-identity law and public policy. The group takes census data and adjusts it for what it says are potential undercounts.
To review the complete study, go to
— Christopher George


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