Leaf season may be a bit drab this year, but election fever has splattered Western North Carolina with a showy palette of colorful characters and splashy campaigns. Reflecting the broader dynamics of national politics in a pivotal midterm appraisal, candidates across the spectrum are striving to press their advantage while exploiting opponents’ perceived weaknesses.
The hubbub is not confined to locals, either: Political heavy hitters from GOP Whip Eric Cantor to Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee to former President Bill Clinton have been putting in appearances here to stump for their respective parties’ candidates in races deemed critical or where seats are believed to be up for grabs.
We’re often told that our political system is hopelessly broken, leaving voters only pseudo choices between aspirants displaying few essential differences. But judging by the responses from the 15 participants in Xpress’ candidate survey, that’s not the case here.
State Sen. Tom Apodaca, for example, says he’s “raised over $100,000 for the campaign and given the vast majority of it to other Republicans running for the Senate.” District Attorney Ron Moore cites the growing local problem of “computer-related crime … involving sexual exploitation of children.” Buncombe County sheriff’s candidate Dickie Green proudly proclaims that he is “open and honest with my Christian values and … a constitutionalist.” State Senate candidate Chris Dixon says he opposes “a California-style medical (wink, wink) marijuana program that turns into a free-for-all.” These are hardly cookie-cutter answers.
Differences of scale are also evident. Almost all the local candidates willingly provided the campaign-finance details we requested, but in the only national race on this year’s ballot, neither incumbent U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler nor challenger Jeff Miller opted to supply that information. (Mountain Xpress will review the official campaign-finance reports as they become available.)
Of course, there’s a whole lot more to the political process than party platforms and specific positions on the issues; questions of character, intelligence and ethics can also loom large. And while the questions we posed don’t directly address such subjective factors, we believe people willing to read between the lines and look beyond the obvious can learn a great deal about the candidates clamoring for their vote.
Politicians are often dancing masters, schooled in the art of avoidance; this can make it tough to pin them down. Xpress has tried to construct our survey so as to make evasion more difficult, but in the end, it’s up to voters to assess the results.
Do the various candidates actually answer the questions asked? Do they deal in easy generalities or give verifiable specifics? Does one aspect of their answers (for example, a pledge to cut taxes) perhaps conflict with another (such as voicing strong support for costly programs)? How does their background relate to the kinds of skills the position they’re seeking will require? Do they seem to have a reasonable grasp of the issues they’ll be grappling with if elected? Who’s endorsing them, and what do those groups stand for? Where does their campaign funding come from?
Seeking answers to these questions, our reporters have conducted interviews, attended forums and undertaken research. In addition to our print offerings, Xpress’ online 2010 Voter Guide provides continuing in-depth coverage of the candidates, the issues and campaign events. We urge you to take advantage of these resources, consider the options, make up your own mind — and then vote. After all, it’s ultimately our community.
Check out our voter guide for ongoing election coverage