Game on

Early primaries can sneak up on voters like a spring shower. In Western North Carolina, a virtual storm front appears to be heading our way this election season, and the primary will offer the first hints as to which way the wind might blow in November.

On Tuesday, May 2, voters will choose the Democratic and Republican candidates for the fall campaign, and a whole host of politicos on both sides of the aisle are vying for your votes. To help readers decide, Xpress has put the candidates’ feet to the fire with a wide range of questions scripted to spotlight the differences between them.

And whether they’re aiming to head up local law enforcement, represent us in Raleigh, or stake our region’s claim in Congress, each candidate is trying to tell us just why he should get our votes — and why his opponent(s) shouldn’t. Xpress‘ grid focuses on three main partisan contests; voters should note that the ballots will also list candidates for nonpartisan judicial races.

Buncombe County Sheriff

Republican Bobby Medford has served as sheriff since 1994. He’s running once again this fall and has no primary challenger from within his own party.

But six Democratic contenders — all with significant experience in local law enforcement — are lining up to try to unseat Medford. And whoever makes the cut will have his hands full this fall, as he will need both to rally his Democratic opponents’ supporters and to tackle a long-serving incumbent.

State Legislature

Six candidates are seeking to represent the N.C. House of Representatives’ 116th District. Four Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination; two Republicans are squaring off for theirs. Most have worked in various capacities as party activists, but only one, Democratic candidate James Latimore, has held elected office, serving on the Woodfin Water Board.

In the 115th District, two Republican candidates are gunning for the chance to go head to head with Democratic incumbent Bruce Goforth in November.

In the N.C. Senate’s 49th District, Democratic incumbent Martin Nesbitt likewise has no challenger from within his own party. Two Republicans are bidding for a chance to send Nesbitt packing.

Congress

When it comes to who will run to represent us in Washington, D.C. — the most powerful position on the ballot — local voters can choose among four colorful candidates, two Republicans and two Democrats.

Republican Charles Taylor has represented the 11th District since 1990, becoming a sometimes controversial power broker. His primary opponent is conservative attorney and writer John Armor.

On the Democratic ticket, former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler has the blessing — and the financial backing — of the national Democratic Party, which is gunning hard for Taylor’s seat. Shuler is opposed by Michael Morgan, an earnestly progressive candidate who’s made several runs for elective office, most recently a failed bid to win the 11th District nomination two years ago.

John Armor

Greg Cathcart

R.L. Clark

Brian Cooper

Rick Cummings

Van Duncan

Lee Farnsworth

Eric Gorny

James Grant

J.B. Howard

Jim Hughes

Doug Jones

James Latimore

Michael Morgan

Bill Porter

Bill Reynolds

Walt Robertson

Heath Shuler

Charles Taylor

Charles Thomas

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