The mood at Asheville Brewing Co. was absolutely raucous on primary night, as Patsy Keever hugged supporters.
"You won!" someone told her.
"We won!" she shouted back. "We all won!"
The results were in, and Keever had decisively defeated incumbent state Rep. Bruce Goforth to claim the Democratic nomination for the 115th House District, encompassing southeastern Buncombe County and most of the city of Asheville.
It was a closely fought race, as the candidates squared off in multiple debates and forums. Keever, a former schoolteacher and Buncombe County commissioner, touted her progressive platform and activist credentials. Goforth, a four-term incumbent, emphasized his experience and legislative achievements.
On May 4, however, there was no doubt about the outcome: Keever swept to victory with 59.8 percent of the vote.
"This is very much a people's campaign," she told Xpress. "This is not about me; this is all these people here who worked on the campaign. … The people, the organization: This was really a grass-roots campaign."
Asked about her strategy against Republican nominee Mark Crawford, Keever said she's sticking with what she sees as a winning formula: "getting more people involved. This is a very important seat for the Democrats, and we've all been being real careful. We've all promised that whoever wins, we'll be behind them. So I know I'll have the Democratic Party behind me and make sure we take this seat in November."
Asheville City Council member Gordon Smith, armed with a pint of beer, led the crowd in cheering Keever on.
The mood was more subdued at Goforth's gathering at the YMI Cultural Center, as the band packed up its gear and the candidate sat around a table with campaign staff and supporters, including Buncombe Commissioner Carol Peterson.
"It's disappointing. We took a thrashing, and we've always been pretty successful in Buncombe County," Goforth told Xpress. "I lost to a good candidate, obviously; I feel relieved. It's unusual for Democrats to run against Democrats, but that's what happened. I obviously hadn't done too good a job in Western North Carolina."
Going forward, however, he said Keever would have his full support.
"This is a redistricting year, and we can't afford to lose that seat in the North Carolina House. I think there's some issues out there that I don't know what's going to be done to resolve them, but I wish her all the luck in the world."