Update, Nov. 8:
For a comprehensive wrap-up of the election results, see “Diversity, experience win Asheville City Council contest.”
Updates, 9:15-10 p.m.:
Mayor Esther Manheimer will serve another term as Asheville’s mayor and Vijay Kapoor and Sheneika Smith will join Gwen Wisler on Asheville City Council. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the results of the 2017 general election are:
- Esther Manheimer: 80.8 percent (12,997 votes)
- Martin Ramsey: 18.6 percent (2,993 votes).
- Vijay Kapoor: 22.8 percent (10,491 votes)
- Sheneika Smith: 19.9 percent (9,170 votes)
- Gwen Wisler (incumbent): 18.2 percent (8,387 votes)
- Kim Roney: 14.8 percent (6,801 votes)
- Rich Lee: 13.6 percent (6,276 votes)
- Dee Williams: 10.1 percent (4,663 votes)
A referendum to provide for six single-member electoral districts governing the nomination and election of Asheville City Council did not pass, with 75 percent of voters saying no.
Asheville wasn’t the only municipality in Buncombe County watching contested races this evening. In Black Mountain, Don Collins took 50.5 percent of the vote to unseat Mayor Michael Sobol. Newcomer Jeremie Konegni and incumbent Ryan Stone were elected to the Black Mountain Board of Aldermen. In Weaverville, incumbent Doug Jackson and Dottie Sherrill nabbed seats on Town Council. In Montreat, Kent Otto, Alice Boggs Lentz and Tom Widmer were the top vote getters for three commissioner seats, leaving Grace Nichols behind.
Coming in second place and snagging a spot on Asheville City Council, Sheneika Smith says she came into this race looking to shift power in Asheville. “I’ve been inspired by a lot of social movements that are going on and were going on in the last four to five years: Occupy, definitely movements around environmental justice, Black Lives Matter,” she says. “I decided to step forward because you can’t just be a community organizer forever and not move forward to influence policy.”
Smith alluded to a grueling campaign season and thanked her supporters. “I have an entire legacy of people who have fought before me and a whole community who was rooting for me, so it definitely gave me the rigor I needed to make it through, but it was a challenge at times,” she says.
Kim Roney, gathered with Smith and supporters at the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center on election night, says she feels “really really really encouraged” by her finish, narrowly missing winning a seat on Asheville City Council. “We came in fourth place out of 12 candidates this season,” she says. “We’ve built community, we’ve built coalition, and we still have a lot, a lot of work to do.”
Roney says she’ll be honored to serve on the Multimodal Transportation Commission with Smith as a Council member. “I’m so proud of her as a friend, as a community leader, and we still have a lot of work to do in the city, so I’m about getting back to work. I think the community is ready to do that with me,” she adds.
Updates, 8:30-9 p.m.:
One hour after the polls closed, with 81.5 percent of precincts reporting, the Asheville City Council race is shaking out:
- Vijay Kapoor: 22.8 percent (10,465 votes)
- Sheneika Smith: 19.9 percent (9,141 votes)
- Gwen Wisler (incumbent): 18.3 percent (8,375 votes)
- Kim Roney: 14.8 percent (6,777 votes)
- Rich Lee: 13.7 percent (6,265 votes)
- Dee Williams: 10.1 percent (4,650 votes)
For mayor, Esther Manheimer has a lock on another term, with 80.8 percent of the votes (12,964), while Martin Ramsey claims 18.6 percent (2,981).
At Pack’s Tavern, cheering breaks out as supporters watch Wisler’s vote tally increase. “Thank you, everyone, I couldn’t have done it without you,” Wisler says.
At the Charlotte Street Pub, Dee Williams, who appears headed for a last-place finish, thanks the small room of supporters for believing in her. The room takes turns saying what the campaign and the Green Party meant to them. They are disappointed with the loss by all accounts, but they see what they’ve done as progress.
“I think our message captivated a lot of people,” Williams says. “It has changed the ground that the Green Party and these candidates will walk on forever.”
“I want to be a trailblazer for other people,” Williams adds. “This is something that no matter what happens after tonight, nobody can take away.”
Even with only 44 out of 54 Buncombe County precincts reporting, voter turnout is running much higher than in the past two municipal elections, at 19,554 out of 84,814 registered voters, or 23 percent. In the 2015 general election, 14,080 out of 82,845 registered voters cast ballots, or 17 percent. In 2013, 15,791 people cast ballots out of 81,930 registered voters, or 19.27 percent.
Before all the votes are tallied, it’s clear that voter turnout was high for a municipal election, Mayor Esther Manheimer says from her gathering at Well Played on Wall Street. “I think we’re on track to see the highest turnout ever, numberwise, for a municipal election. So it’s really exciting,” she says. “I feel like people have really gotten engaged since the presidential election. And engagement is good. We’ve got people who’ve never participated in municipal elections before and they’re here, they’re volunteering on campaigns and they’re voting. And that’s a different experience than I’ve previously experienced.”
Manheimer tentatively thanks those who voted for her, as early returns show a sizable lead. “I’m feeling flattered that the people of Asheville overwhelmingly seem to be re-electing me,” she says.
As the polls close at 7:30 p.m. in Buncombe County for municipal general election, six candidates are hoping for a seat on Asheville City Council and two candidates are in the running for Asheville mayor, while a handful of other town throughout the county will also elect new representatives.
Check back here throughout the evening as Xpress keeps track of results and gets reactions from candidates on their campaigns and the future of Asheville and Buncombe County.
Early vote totals are coming in: For Asheville mayor, incumbent Esther Manheimer has a commanding lead with 85 percent of the vote (4,275 votes) to challenger Martin Ramsey’s 14 percent (711 votes).
In the Asheville City Council contest, the candidates garnered early votes in the following order:
- Vijay Kapoor: 27.2 percent (3,878 votes)
- Gwen Wisler (incumbent): 21.9 percent (3,120 votes)
- Sheneika Smith: 17.7 percent (2,526 votes)
- Rich Lee: 13.5 percent (1,931 votes)
- Kim Roney: 10.5 percent (1,497 votes)
- Dee Williams: 8.9 percent (1,263 votes)
At Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in South Asheville, Vijay Kapoor, the early front-runner for City Council, says, “I’m feeling very good, humbled, thrilled to be joined by all the volunteers, my family. They worked really hard to try and get our message out throughout the city. It’s rewarding that it actually seems to be working.”
“We’ll see what happens — a lot of people showed up today,” Kapoor adds. “And this thing is not over.”
— Able Allen and Virginia Daffron contributed to this report