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As election season moves into high gear, the focus tends to be on the two main political parties and their candidates. But while that approach makes sense, it overlooks some key facets of this unique community.

Asheville is often viewed as a liberal city, both politically and culturally. A majority of current City Council members are progressives of varying sorts. Protests, often by left-leaning activist groups, are a visible part of downtown life. And the city turns up frequently on lists of progressive-minded places.

Before the last election, however, City Council was tilted decidedly more toward the right, and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is typically a more conservative body. And conservative Republican Charles Taylor has represented this area in Congress since 1991.

In other words, politics here are more complex and harder to pigeonhole than is sometimes assumed. As the following stories show, liberals and conservatives alike sometimes see themselves as members of an oppressed minority group. Across the political spectrum, however, activists of all stripes are having an impact. Some become regulars at local-government meetings or work for candidates they favor. Some form political action committees or launch blogs, seeking to influence their fellow citizens. Others bite the bullet and decide to become candidates themselves.

And with close, important races at the local, state and national levels now entering the home stretch, voters’ widely varying views present both opportunities and challenges for candidates setting their sights on Nov. 7.

To illuminate this jagged political terrain, Xpress quizzed assorted local activists, both about their own values and about the various contenders in the upcoming elections. In “What’s Left?” Hal Millard provides snapshots of some citizen movers and shakers on the left; in “Right on Target,” David Forbes takes a complementary look at their counterparts on the right. However diverse their political opinions, these people and countless other area residents are helping shape the community we all share.


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