If Buncombe County were all that counted, Democratic challenger Phillip Price would have coasted to victory in the 2018 race for U.S. House of Representatives District 11. He bested incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Meadows by over 10 percentage points among Buncombe voters — but lost the race across the rest of the district, determined by a panel of federal judges earlier in 2018 to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans, by over 20 percentage points.
Things are different this time around. According to new district maps approved by state judges in December, NC-11 now contains the entirety of Buncombe County’s large Democratic voter base, which had previously been split with NC-10. And Meadows isn’t seeking reelection, meaning the Democratic nominee will run against an opponent without his considerable name recognition and national profile.
Five Democratic candidates are now in the primary mix, including Price, who had previously endorsed political newcomer Michael O’Shea before choosing to run again. Retired U.S. Air Force Major Steve Woodsmall is taking another shot at the nomination after coming in second to Price in the 2018 primary, while real estate professional and attorney Gina Collias has switched both parties and districts since her nearly 57-point loss against Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry in the District 10 primary.
But the man to beat — at least in terms of fundraising, with at least $73,000 in his war chest at the end of 2019 — is Moe Davis. The former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay earned national recognition for resigning his post in 2007 after opposing the use of torture and has a substantial social media presence, with over 157,000 followers on Twitter.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
Occupation: Real estate professional and attorney
Previous candidacy or offices held: U.S. House of Representatives NC-10 candidate in 2018
Key endorsements: Retired Air Force Major General Rick Devereaux
Amount of money raised: More than $55,000
Top three donors: Individuals
What are the two most important issues facing WNC residents, and how would you address them? First, WNC must be affordable. I support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to a living wage, creating more affordable housing, enacting a Medicare for All public option and ensuring H.R. 3 becomes law to rein in drug costs and help Medicare recipients. Second, the climate crisis threatens our lives and economy. We must rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, stop supporting polluters and create green jobs/environmental incentives to preserve our planet and the beauty of WNC.
What do you see as the top three national security threats facing the United States? Attacks on our elections (via cyber/social media, corruption and foreign interference) threaten our representative democracy, our way of life, how we are governed and by whom. Another threat is the erosion of our long-standing alliances. Treating our neighbors, friends and NATO allies with disdain weakens our global influence and safety. Lastly, foreign policy by threats and intimidation rather than building strength via alliances, cooperation and diplomacy will leave us isolated, vulnerable and continually on the brink of war.
If you could choose, which Democratic presidential candidate would you pick to receive the party’s nomination? Whoever can win the presidential race (I’m still deliberating). All of the Democratic presidential candidates are qualified, represent the values we believe in and value changes that would improve our lives in WNC. All want to preserve preexisting condition protections and are offering alternative ways to get us to universal health care. All want to create a living wage, address the climate crisis and work for Americans — not for special interests or their own personal gain.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with Republicans? I should be your nominee because I build bridges and bridge differences, which will be necessary to win NC-11. I’ll fight hard for our WNC values, but I will also listen and show respect to everyone. I started a Facebook group several years ago that brings thousands of Democrats, Republicans and independents together for civil discussions. We can find common ground on issues like infrastructure: rebuilding roads, bridges and internet connectivity and putting WNC to work with high-paying jobs.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents don’t, and what makes you likely to win in November? I have a 20-year history of community action: volunteering, leading economic development and helping people. I have experience as an attorney and worked to expose Electoral College irregularities. Additionally, while progressive on social issues, I am fiscally responsible and, as a more moderate candidate, can appeal to unaffiliated voters (one-third of the electorate). Let’s mark the 100th year of women getting the right to vote by turning NC-11 blue with our first congresswoman.
Occupation: Retired Air Force colonel; former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay; national security specialist for Congressional Research Service; Howard University law professor; judge at U.S. Department of Labor.
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not respond
Key endorsements: David Crane, former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone; Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell; Lawrence Tribe, Harvard Law professor; Frank Goldsmith, co-chair of the N.C. Commission of Inquiry on Torture; Eugene Fidell, founder and president emeritus of the National Institute of Military Justice
Amount of money raised: Six figures
Top three donors: Individuals
What are the two most important issues facing WNC residents, and how would you address them? Health care and the economy. Health care is a fundamental right, and I support health care for all, with the option for individuals to procure their own plan or a supplement. We spend double what other countries spend, and without spending more we can cover everyone. Our economic policies focus top-down and favor the top. We need to reorient our focus and lift up rather than trickle down.
What do you see as the top three national security threats facing the United States? 1) President Trump. He has decimated the alliances and international legal frameworks Americans fought, bled and died to establish and defend for generations. 2) Climate change. Fires, flooding, drought and famine are overwhelming our ecosystem and destabilizing populations across the globe. 3) Isolationism and nationalism. Efforts to divide people into “us” and “them” to exploit fear and acquire power are happening globally and, as with 9/11 and the 2016 elections, it doesn’t take a massive military budget to be effective.
If you could choose, which Democratic presidential candidate would you pick to receive the party’s nomination? I’m asked that question a lot. This truly is the most important election in my lifetime, and I am 100% behind whichever Democrat has the best chance of ensuring Trump is at most a one-term president. I am not going to let perfect be the enemy of the good that leads to our end. The singular objective is to replace Trump with someone who actually believes in America and democracy.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with Republicans? I’m confident we can find common ground on a range of issues if we approach them from our shared interests in sound fiscal policy and strong national security. Take green technology, for example. The word “green” to some is a turnoff. If, however, you ask the same person how he or she would feel to not have a power bill every month and be independent of any foreign country to meet our energy needs, you may get a different reaction.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents don’t, and what makes you likely to win in November? I have worked with Congress, have experience writing legislation and will receive impactful committee assignments right away. I am the only candidate with the record and the reach to win in what is still a red-leaning district. My national security background and media appearances have created a large following that enables me to attract the attention and the resources that will be required to beat whoever the other side picks as its nominee to be the next Trump enabler.
Occupation: Music producer
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not respond
Key endorsements: Our Revolution WNC, former Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell, Asheville City Council member Brian Haynes
Amount of money raised: Approximately $15,000
Top three donors: Michael O’Shea, Lois Henrickson, Kathryn O’Shea
What are the two most important issues facing WNC residents, and how would you address them? 1) Economic inequality. I include health care in this because wealth determines access in our current system. I support Medicare for All, a $15 living wage, universal basic income, higher educator pay, free public college, labor unions, closing corporate tax loopholes and making the 1% pay their fair share of taxes. 2) Climate change. I support a Green New Deal and doing whatever is necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of staying under the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold.
What do you see as the top three national security threats facing the United States? 1) Climate change. If we do not address this issue immediately while our window of opportunity is still open, the long-term ramifications will wreak havoc globally and create a myriad of national security threats that will only continue to grow and compound. 2) Cyberterrorism, including U.S. election interference by foreign countries. America’s infrastructure is already unacceptably vulnerable, and we must aggressively address this growing threat. 3) Nuclear arms proliferation, especially by countries with authoritarian governments.
If you could choose, which Democratic presidential candidate would you pick to receive the party’s nomination? I have officially endorsed Bernie Sanders and have been endorsed by Our Revolution WNC, the local chapter of the progressive political organization that grew out of his 2016 campaign. As a “progressive Democrat,” I am definitely a fan of Elizabeth Warren, too, but Bernie has the longest track record as a progressive. As a member of the UBI Caucus, I also appreciate Andrew Yang for popularizing the idea of universal basic income.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with Republicans? We are all moral beings and make decisions based on our own personal values. Most people are genuinely trying to do what they think is ethically best, but translating that intent into political policy is a game of telephone that can end in dramatically different conclusions. However misguided their political positions may be, it’s much easier to find common ground and start a dialogue if we remember that the other side’s intentions are probably more common to ours than not.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents don’t, and what makes you likely to win in November? I’m 32 years old and the first millennial to be on the ballot for a Democratic congressional primary in NC-11, so I can bring a fresh perspective on politics and represent my generation, which is now the largest voting-age population nationally. The new problems we are facing as a country will not be solved by old ways of thinking. I am the most boldly progressive candidate and least afraid to change the broken status quo.
Occupation: 20-year owner of lumber recycling business; woodworker
Previous candidacy or offices held: 2018 Democratic nominee for U.S. House of Representatives NC-11; N.C. Democratic Party state executive committee member
Key endorsements: 116,508 WNC voters in the 2018 general election
Amount of money raised: Did not respond
Top three donors: Did not respond
What are the two most important issues facing WNC residents, and how would you address them? 1) Lack of health care — helping to get Medicare for All passed and implemented. 2) Low wages — help to pass a national minimum wage of $15 per hour.
What do you see as the top three national security threats facing the United States? 1) Rogue president who abuses his power for personal gain and weakens our relationships with our allies. 2) Global warming/climate crisis. 3) Cyberattacks on our electoral process.
If you could choose, which Democratic presidential candidate would you pick to receive the party’s nomination? I will choose the candidate that supports Medicare for All.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with Republicans? There are many places that we have common ground, starting with our humanity, our patriotism, our desire to make the world a better place for our children and having a health care system that covers everyone and costs less.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents don’t, and what makes you likely to win in November? My 35 years of living, working and playing in the 11th District. Having lived in six counties (Buncombe, Haywood, Macon, Jackson, Transylvania and McDowell) and working in all 17 counties has allowed me to build relationships with Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated residents. Having worked alongside people of every economic stature, I have friends that live in single-wide trailers and in $5 million homes. I am able to get along with everyone and can bring together people to solve problems.
Occupation: Retired U.S. Air Force major; college professor
Previous candidacy or offices held: U.S. House of Representatives NC-11 candidate in 2018
Key Endorsements: N.C. Sen. Erica Smith; Heather Hawn, chair of political science at Mars Hill University; Gail Mull, Canton mayor pro tem; Linda Wilkins-Daniels, past president of the N.C. Democratic Party African American Caucus; Stephanie Hofeller, gerrymandering whistleblower
Amount of money raised: $51,000
Top three donors: Did not respond
What are the two most important issues facing WNC residents, and how would you address them? Our polling of NC-11 showed that access to health care is the main issue. Fear of lowering Social Security and Medicare benefits is second. I support a single-payer universal health care system, which would address the first issue, and a fair tax system to ensure the wealthy and the corporations pay their fair share. We also must work on improving the region’s economy by providing jobs, especially in green energy fields such as solar and wind infrastructure.
What do you see as the top three national security threats facing the United States? A Government Accountability Office report identified 26 long-range emerging threats to national security. I believe the three most serious are climate change, cyberwarfare and global expansion attempts by countries such as Russia and China. Frankly, the most immediate threat is the current occupant of the White House — hopefully, the Senate will do the right thing and remove him from office, although I’m not optimistic. At least voters can in 2020.
If you could choose, which Democratic presidential candidate would you pick to receive the party’s nomination? Elizabeth Warren. Her platform closely aligns with ours, particularly regarding overturning the Citizens United ruling, and she has the intellect and determination to solve the problems.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with Republicans? I’m willing to compromise on issues, but never on values. This is increasingly difficult due to those who not only refuse to accept facts but fabricate their own “facts.” We need officials who understand data and will attack real problems, not waste resources on imaginary ones. I would hope a common belief in the principles of the U.S. Constitution would provide a higher mutual purpose toward which we can work to improve our country to the benefit of all.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents don’t, and what makes you likely to win in November? I have the most comprehensive and diverse experience and education — retired military, government contractor, corporate executive, nonprofit management and college teaching — with a proven record of community service and problem-solving. What I don’t have is any disqualifiers, such as controversy in my military record, lack of experience, residency questions or a criminal record that an opponent could use against me in the general election. Most importantly, I pledge to represent the people and uphold the oath of office.