Buncombe advances first-time candidates in March 5 primary

ELECTION DAY: Fewer voters turned out for the 2024 primary election than for the last presidential primary in 2020. Photo by Greg Parlier

While the March 5 primary delivered few surprises at the top of the ticket, local races delivered some firsts for Buncombe County in an election that saw a far lower turnout than the previous presidential primary in 2020.

FIRST FEMALE: Jean Marie Christy is likely to become the first female elected Clerk of Superior Court in Buncombe County after her primary win March 5. She will run opposed in November’s general election. Photo by Greg Parlier

Jean Marie Christy won her primary election by nearly 10,000 votes over challenger Johanna Finkelstein, and is on track to become the first elected female clerk of court in Buncombe County. She will run unopposed in November.

“I can’t express my appreciation enough. This means so much to me. I really hope to make you all proud as a Democratic clerk,” Christy told a crowded room at the Buncombe County Democratic Party’s election night celebration, held at Hi-Wire Brewing Co.’s Biltmore Village event space.

“I think it’s time. Until recently, we hadn’t had a female superior court judge … We have yet to have a female county commission chair. I think Buncombe County deserves to see a diverse leadership,” Christy told Xpress after results from all 80 precincts were reported.

In the race for Buncombe County Commission District 1, Jennifer Horton pulled off a nearly 700 vote victory over Matt Kern, giving her a chance to become the first Black female to sit on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

“We are starting a movement,” Horton said after the results were announced.

Horton thanked her family and supporters, including County Commissioner Al Whitesides, who became the county’s first Black county commissioner in 2016.

Whitesides, who was in attendance, said he was proud of how much work Horton put into her primary run, and said Horton’s youth — she’s 38 — will be a key asset on the commission.

Horton will go up against Paul Benjamin, who won the Republican nomination over Rondell Lance, a retired police officer and president of the Asheville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Four first-time candidates for Asheville City Council also advance to the general election. Kevan Frazier, Bo Hess, Tod Leaven and CJ Domingo will join incumbent council members Kim Roney and Sage Turner on the November ballot.

ANOTHER FIRST: If Jennifer Horton, seen here  celebrating her primary victory March 5, were to win the general election against Republican Paul Benjamin, she would become the commission’s first Black female commissioner. Photo by Greg Parlier

Iindia Pearson and Taylon Breeden, who officially pulled out of the race on Feb. 20, were eliminated. The top three vote-getters in November will win election to City Council.

Frazier, who finished third in the primary, after Roney and Turner, said he went to 20 different polling sites throughout the day and was impressed with the presence at those locations of representatives from every campaign.

As results were still rolling in, Leaven, who finished fifth, told Xpress that he has grown to appreciate all the candidates running for City Council, and believes the city is in good hands no matter what happens in November.

The Buncombe County GOP did not respond to questions about an election night gathering March 5.

Including early voting and absentee-by-mail ballots, just under 60,000 ballots were cast in the March primary as of March 6, about 29% of the electorate. That is far fewer than the more than 82,000 ballots cast in the last presidential primary in 2020.

“I just want to thank all the voters who came out today to make their voices count. You are the people choosing who we will see on the ballot in November. Precincts across the county ran smoothly today with no issues,” said Buncombe County Elections Director Corinne Duncan in an election night press release.

Buncombe County Election Services now enters the 10-day auditing process known as Canvass. Election results will become official at the conclusion of that process March 15.

NEWCOMERS: Bo Hess, Tod Leaven and Kevan Frazier (left to right) watch results come in on primary election night March 5. All three advanced to the general election in their first bid for a seat on Asheville City Council. Photo by Greg Parlier



Winners in bold.

U.S. House District 11 (Rep) (Vote count includes all of District 11)

Chuck Edwards 66,475 (69%)

Christian Reagan 29,982 (31%)

N.C. District Court judge District 6 (Dem)

Robin Leigh Merrell 17,958 (58%)

Emily Sutton Dezio 13,200 (42%)

N.C. District Court judge District 7 (Dem)

Meredith Pressley Stone 23,904 (76%)

Todd Lentz 7,512 (24%)

Buncombe County Commission District 1 (Dem)

Jennifer Horton 5,367 (53%)

Matt Kern 4,687 (47%)

Buncombe County Commission District 1 (Rep)

Paul Benjamin 4,707 (63%)

Rondell Lance 2,742 (37%)

Buncombe County Clerk of Superior Court (Dem)

Jean Marie Christy 20,727 (66%)

Johanna Finkelstein 10,787 (34%)

Asheville City Council

Kim Roney 10,530 (20%)

Sage Turner 9,781 (19%)

Kevan Frazier 8,639 (17%)

Roberto (Bo) Hess 7,287 (14%)

Tod Leaven 6,354 (12%)

Charles (CJ) Domingo 3,904 (8%)

Iindia Pearson 3,536 (6.8%)

Taylon Breanne Breeden 1,986 (4%)




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One thought on “Buncombe advances first-time candidates in March 5 primary

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Has anyone checked the backgrounds of all the city council candidates ? I heard one has a criminal record.

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