By acclamation, the assembled delegates of the Buncombe County Democratic Party elected Emmet Carney (pictured at right with outgoing chair Charles Carter) their new chair at the annual convention this morning.
Photo by Jerry Nelson
“You’ve delivered us a potentially brilliant future,” Carney told the delegates, assembled in the Buncombe County courthouse. “Together we are going to rise and seek our destiny… we will maintain the moral high ground, we will deliver a slate of vetted and tested candidates and we will rise above them and over them and through them like a righteous tide.”
While local business owner Grant Millin had previously declared a run for the position, he dropped his bid.
Only one race — for second Vice Chair — ended up a contested race, with incumbent Isaac Coleman narrowly defeating Michael Vavrek, 255-245.
“I have served this position for two terms, I’ve worked hard for this party and I’m qualified,” Coleman said.
Vavrek, meanwhile, praised Coleman for his service but said he had a plan to better train and organize precinct chairs, as well as handle potential primary battles.
“We are all committed to Democratic principles, we all want all Democrats to win,” Vavrek said. “If we’re disciplined in our planning and something unexpected happens, we’ll keep our heads while everyone else is losing theirs.”
Some delegates raised the issue of diversity of the party’s leadership in the contest between Vavrek and Coleman, who is African-American. By party rules, the chair and first vice chair must be of opposite gender. The guidelines also recommend a position for a “person of color” and someone under the age of 35, according to Jake Quinn, acting as party secretary.
However, Coleman noted that he was glad there was no requirement to give the spot to a racial minority, asserting that “now we can see where our hearts are, we can vote on qualifications.”
After his victory, Coleman declared that “diversity is important, I was told that 50 years ago, this was the party of all white people. We’re making some progress.”
In addition to Carney and Coleman, the party elected Linda Fowler as first vice chair, Sherry Henline as third Vice Chair, Marianne Cote as secretary and Quinn as treasurer.
The mood was mostly jovial, except for a few points of contention. The party only has two voting methods available — voice or weighted delegate count, with different precincts having greater or lesser weight depending on the level of Democratic turnout they possess. When the party voted on resolutions, this sometimes led to the “ayes” and “nays” trying to out-shout each other, and a general aversion to the more time-consuming vote count that was the only alternative.
The main contention came over a resolution to recommend that Asheville City Council change its development guidelines to give a Council hearing to all projects over 10,000 square feet. An amendment to change that to 50,000 square feet couldn’t get a clear voice vote, so the delegates counted up votes, and the amendment passed 147-144.
Other notable resolutions included opposition to a state senate bill that would remove the cap on charter schools (and take funding away from public schools, according to the resolution’s proponents, who succeeded in passing it), a condemnation of the leadership of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (which failed) and another opposing state GOP Rep. Tim Moffitt‘s proposed legislation to elect the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners by district, which passed overwhelmingly.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter