Personality-packed Buncombe commissioners race highlights local elections

All eyes may be on the presidential race this election year, but it’s the race for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners that has brought local personalities into the spotlight.

The election filing period closed Friday with no less than 15 people running for four seats on the board. The personalities include a weekly newspaper editor, one current and one past member of Asheville City Council, a former community college president and a former minor league baseball general manager.

The nine Democrats running for commissioner are: Commissioners Carol Peterson and Bill Stanley; Vernon Dover, a retired Progress Energy official; J. Ray Elingburg, a former county clerk of court; K. Ray Bailey, retired president of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College; Robert E. “Bob” Hill of Candler; Holly Jones, an Asheville City Council member; local businessman Keith Thomson; and City Paper editor Cecil Bothwell.

Here are the six Republicans: Asheville real estate broker John Carroll, former Asheville City Councilman Joe Dunn; Michael Fryar, who pushed the Let Asheville Vote effort last year; Ron McKee, part owner and former general manager of the Asheville Tourists; Don Yelton, a local government critic and member of the Carolina Stompers; and local businessman Steve Bledsoe, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year.

For chairman of the Buncombe board, it will be Republican Chairman Nathan Ramsey facing fellow Commissioner David Gantt.

In Buncombe County’s three state House seats, Democratic Rep. Susan Fisher is running unopposed in District 114. State Rep. Bruce Goforth, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Republican newcomer Paul Purdue in District 115. Democrat Jane Whilden faces Republican Tim Moffitt to represent District 116, a seat held by Rep. Charles Thomas, a a first-term Republican who decided not to seek re-election. In Buncombe County’s state Senate District 49, Sen. Democrat Martin Nesbitt faces a challenge from Republican R.L. Clark, a challenger who held the Senate seat from 1995 to ‘98.

Register of Deeds Otto DeBruhl, a Democrat who has held the office for more than three decades, is running unopposed.

Click here to read the full list of candidates running for state and local office.

Here’s a list of upcoming key dates:

• April 11: Last day to register to vote or change party affiliation before primary.
• April 17: Early voting for primary begins.
• April 29: Last day to request an absentee ballot by mail.
• May 3: Early voting ends at 1 p.m.
• May 6: Primary election. Voters narrow the field to four Democrats and four Republicans for commissioner, and one from each party for chairman.
• Nov. 4: General election.
Source: Buncombe County Board of Elections

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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