At the end of the mayoral primary on Tuesday night, about 9 percent of Asheville’s registered voters decided that Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer and former City Risk Management Director John Miall will be the two candidates who will continue to vie for the mayor’s office.
With all 39 precincts reporting, Manheimer proved the top vote-getter of the evening — garnering a little more than 60 percent of the vote. Miall followed by receiving about 25 percent of the vote. Ramsey, who got roughly 15 percent of the vote, was eliminated from the race as a result of the primary results.
Met with applause as she entered the top floor of Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, Manheimer greeted close to 30 supporters who came out to celebrate her victory, including City Council members Cecil Bothwell, Marc Hunt, Chris Pelly and Gordon Smith. Former Council member and current Buncombe County Commissioner Brownie Newman also attended the election night festivities.
Manheimer says she’ll enjoy the victory, but has her eye on the Nov. 5 contest.
“Early voting starts in two weeks, so it’s not like you’re going to make a major change in your campaign at this point,” she said. In her campaign thus far, Manheimer has championed the work of the current Council, specifically touting the city’s economic incentives program and multimodal initiatives.
She says her campaign has and will continue to be a reflection of the community.
“Asheville is such a wonderful community and that’s one of the reasons that I ran for office,” she said. “It’s a community that a lot of us enjoy being a part of, me in particular, and I feel that this campaign is really something of a community event.”
Though Ramsey will not continue on to the municipal election this November, he says that his campaign was victorious in one regard in that it represented a part of the community that isn’t often heard form in local elections.
“Everyone had to speak to the concerns of working people. To the degree that it will translate beyond campaign rhetoric is anyone’s guess, but I’m happy to have forced that dialogue — and that was the goal from the outset,” Ramsey said. Though Ramsey did not offer a definitive yes-or-no as to whether he will run for office again, he did say, “We need popular movement and community activism outside of politics just as much as we need people contesting seats.”
At his election night party at the downtown bar known as The Dirty South, supporters watched the results roll in on their phones in the dark bar.
Watching the results on a laptop in the kitchen of his North Asheville home surrounded by his wife and close campaign supporters, Miall says that he is “tired but ready to move.”
“I think we came out of nowhere. We don’t have the name recognition the incumbent vice mayor does,” he says. Going forward, he says his next move is to take a closer look at voter data, specifically the 40 percent of voters who did not vote for Manheimer. “Once we get a closer look at those numbers, we’ll know what we need to do in the next four weeks. The devil’s really in the details.”
However, he lamented, “I think the disappointing thing for all the candidates today was the low voter turnout.”
According to figures from the Buncombe County Board of Elections, 6,032 people voted in the primary — with 1,067 of those folks casting their votes the early voting period, which ran from Thursday, Sept. 19 through last Saturday. In Asheville’s last mayoral primary in 2009, there were 7,152 ballots cast for four mayoral and 10 city council candidates. The voter turnout in that election was about 11 percent.
From the unofficial results from the Buncombe County Board of Elections:
Esther Manheimer: 3,614 votes, 60.01 percent
John Miall: 1,530 votes, 25.41 percent
Martin Ramsey: 878 votes, 14.58 percent
Total votes: 6,022
Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext.140.