As the Democratic Party retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, Buncombe Dems managed to hold on to key positions in local elections — perhaps most notably that of county sheriff. Politics also seeped into the Board of Commissioners race, where Republicans fell short in their bid to flip the party composition of the board.
But with wins by Reps. Patrick McHenry and Mark Meadows, whose 10th and 11th congressional districts each include part of Buncombe County, the Asheville area continued to be represented on the national stage by Republicans.
- Quentin Miller becomes county’s most progressive sheriff ever: When Sheriff Van Duncan announced he would not seek re-election as Buncombe County’s top lawman, he also endorsed one of his key staff, moderate Democrat Randy Smart. But Miller, an Asheville Police Department sergeant at the time, easily captured the party’s nomination in the primary as he championed progressive causes such as de-escalation training, gun control and medical marijuana. He also earned glowing endorsements from many of the county’s most progressive figures, including Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Sheneika Smith, Patsy Keever and Drew Reisinger. That momentum carried through the general election in November, enabling him to accumulate 61 percent of the vote against his Republican opponent, Shad Higgins, and Libertarian long shot Tracey DeBruhl. Meanwhile in October, Duncan told the Citizen Times he had decided to leave the Democratic Party and change his registration to unaffiliated, citing “an anti-law enforcement sentiment in the Democratic Party.”
- Angry Taxpayers push for Republicans on county board: Claiming that recent allegations of corruption were the result of long-term Democratic control of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, a political action committee formed to support Republican candidates’ bids. The Angry Taxpayers PAC spent over $50,000 on mailings, signs, billboards and radio ads.
- Democrats keep control of Buncombe County Board of Commissioners: Despite the Angry Taxpayers’ efforts, Democrats maintained their 4-3 majority. Democrats could have been vulnerable after District 2 commissioner Ellen Frost announced that she would not seek reelection in 2018, but Democrat Amanda Edwards held off Republican Glenda Weinert by a margin of about 4,000 votes in the district.
- State imposes district elections for Asheville City Council: Despite a 2017 citywide referendum in which three-quarters of Asheville voters rejected a shift to district-based elections for seats on the city’s elected board, the N.C. General Assembly in 2018 passed legislation to require the change. Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, whose district includes a part of South Asheville, spearheaded the state’s action. He said in a statement, “Asheville can now benefit from an increased candidate pool, accountability of Council members to a specific geographic area and a clear understanding by the citizens of where they should turn if they have concerns.”
- State legislature paradigm shift: By maintaining their seats in the General Assembly, Buncombe’s Democratic state legislators — Sen. Terry Van Duyn, as well as Reps. Susan Fisher, John Ager and Brian Turner — helped undo a Republican supermajority. Starting with the January 2019 long session, GOP lawmakers will require Democratic support to overturn vetoes by Gov. Roy Cooper.