Progressives chafe at Cape’s primary endorsement of Davis

Asheville City Council member Robin Cape drew the ire of some fellow progressives on election day when one of her endorsements included incumbent Jan Davis, a self-described moderate.

In the general election, however, Cape says her ideals would trump her fondness for Davis and lead her to support Elaine Lite out of sheer pragmatism. It’s important, she says, that the vote not be split between fellow progressives Lite and Bryan Freeborn, which could help elect the more conservative Bill Russell. “I called Jan [election night] and said, ‘Don’t expect me to support you in the general election.’ I can’t, because of the issues I care about. … For the issues it’s important I get the most progressive people,” says Cape, who has two years remaining in her term.

The kerfuffle began after Cape — one of four progressives on the current seven-member City Council — endorsed all three incumbents (including progressives Brownie Newman and Freeborn) in a get-out-the-vote e-mail sent to constituents on her e-mail list and the press. The endorsement, tacked on without fanfare at the end of her e-mail, caused consternation in progressive circles on election night and beyond. Many progressives are hoping to replace Davis with a more left-leaning Council member.

“Robin Cape threw her endorsement to Jan Davis on the morning of the election, leading this Hooligan to question her commitment to a progressive City Council,” local liberal blogger Gordon Smith, summing up the general feeling on his blog Scrutiny Hooligans. “What sort of deal is being struck there, I wonder?”

There was no deal, according to Cape, who supports partisan elections. Nonpartisan primaries, she maintains, typically boil down to personalities and likability. In that case, she says, endorsing the well-liked Davis was a no-brainer. “For me, it was who do I like to work with? And I like working with those three more than anyone else [running],” she told Xpress, adding that the current Council has been productive, and Davis has been part of that success. Aside from one upset progressive who contacted her directly, Cape said she was unaware her endorsement had upset so many of her fellow progressives who were grumbling about it on election night as Davis racked up the most votes of all 15 candidates.

Freeborn, meanwhile, says Davis brings balance to Council. “We don’t want to sink into groupthink,” he argues — which can happen when everyone has the same ideology. “I think we have a Council now that truly represents all of Asheville.” Nonetheless, Freeborn stopped short of endorsing Davis, saying that he hasn’t championed major progressive causes. Freeborn also asserts that Davis’ refusal to support Freeborn’s appointment to Council in 2005, even though he was the next-highest vote getter, ignored the will of the people.

Cape, on the other hand, says Davis has generally been open to the ideas and arguments put forth by his progressive colleagues. And Davis’ wide popularity, she maintains, often builds bridges between the progressive bloc and more conservative or moderate interests who might otherwise oppose those measures.

Davis, meanwhile, voiced satisfaction with the results on election night. “I’m grateful, and I think it speaks well for the community to come out and pick a person who’s truly a moderate,” he said. “I think a lot of people in the community have great liberal leanings at moments and great conservative leanings at moments, and I think most people have an appreciation that this community takes a lot of [moderation] to move things forward.

“I think that people naturally build slates [of candidates] and want to see slates,” added Davis. “I’ve been pleased to serve with who I have [on Council] and can serve with anyone. It would be good, from a business standpoint, to have … fellow businesspeople. … I like a balanced Council. I think we’ve had a bit of an imbalance, with a really hard left and a really hard right.”

— Hal L. Millard, staff writer

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17 thoughts on “Progressives chafe at Cape’s primary endorsement of Davis

  1. ash

    so i’m confused. who is Cape endorsing for the November election – Lite, Freeborn and Newman?

  2. Gordon Smith

    I’m glad to see that Robin’s reconsidered. Here’s hoping her energy catapults the progressives to victory.

  3. chuck

    after seeing that youtube clip of her ranting about the vast right wing conspiracy to keep her grandchildren from eating brownies, i sorta lost the faith.

  4. Jake

    I am surprised and disappointed that we have “progressive” City Council members who view that body as their own little club. From where I sit, I think it’s painfully apparent that these elected representatives need to be pushed out of their comfort zones a bit. That they view such challenges as threats is terribly unfortunate, especially when it affects their performance.

  5. Gordon Smith

    Progressives were elected into a majority on Council less than two years ago. The work they’ve done is nothing short of impressive, and given another two years, there’s so much more that can be accomplished in the arenas of city planning and creating opportunity for everyone, not just a few developers and the folks who can afford their buildings.

    The Progressives aren’t a “little club”, they’re a powerful political force that’s only just begun their work.

    “Out of their comfort zones” = “away from their principles”. I don’t think that Progressives need to turn away from their principles, and it’s absurd to suggest it.

  6. curmudgeon

    Good point, Nam Vet (this is the only time I’ll EVER say that).

    I’m not happy with the term “progressive” in this context. The folks we’re calling progressive are not in favor of “progress” in the conventional sense, where progress means changing things.

    Seems to me that they are more in favor of conserving what we have, which would make them “conservatives.” But, of course, that will never do, so we need some new designations.

    “The Hippies” would work for me, but they probably wouldn’t like it. How about the “Save a Shred of Ashevilleites”?

  7. Jake

    In the context of Asheville, I’d say that “progressive” represents motion towards a sustainable community. That means according respect to and recognizing value in everyone in the community, helping those who need it, promoting stewardship of our natural and human resources, and positioning the community for future success. The City Council of the past year-and-a-half can point to some worthwhile “progressive” accomplishments for which I applaud them.

    I see curmudgeon’s take on “progressive,” and acknowledge that some of what Asheville progressivism is about has a solid foundation in some wholesome, old-time values. I have no problem with that at all. But I don’t view it as conservative to promote diversity or a “greener” city, and the City Council has been showing progress in these crucial areas.

    Where I take issue with the Council is summed up in Ms Cape’s endorsement of Jan Davis, a gentleman to be sure, but one with whom Ms Cape tends to differ when it comes to some important policy issues. City Council is not about “getting along” and having colleagues who are “easy to work with.” It’s about doing the people’s business. And sometimes that means listening to things that you might disagree with, and might not even want to listen to at all. In other words, getting ojutside your comfort zone. It comes with the territory. Ms Cape’s endorsement of Mr. Davis had everything to do with her personal comfort, and little to do with what’s best for Asheville, and *that* is the source of my disappointment.

    Our City Council has done some good work, but I think there’s a long way to go before it’s time to be resting on laurels. In the mean time, I hope the Council understands that it is a good thing when some are impatient for more and greater progress. Perhaps they could learn to leverage that.

  8. Gordon Smith

    I went to Wikipedia for this:

    “Progressivism historically advocates the advancement of workers’ rights and social justice. The progressives were early proponents of anti-trust laws and the regulation of large corporations and monopolies, as well as government-funded environmentalism and the creation of National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.”

    Changing things is exactly what a Progressive majority can do – progress towards cleaner air, a strong local economy, wise land use, protecting the little guy.

    What’s most fascinating for me about this semantic discussion is that we’re having it only because the conservative noise machine successfully stigmatized ‘liberal’.

  9. ashvegas

    pushing a politician out of their comfort zone does not mean pushing them to abandon their principles. it means pushing them to listen to everybody, not just the people who voted for them. it means not being beholden to only the people who gave them campaign cash. it means making sure our council listens and learns from mistakes. they’re only human, after all.

    most of these candidates don’t operate as a club. as we’ve said before, Cape’s various endorsements just comes down to simple math. she understands that it takes four votes to get something done. Brownie Newman also understands this, and has been talking about it on the campaign trail. he frames it as “bi-partisanship,” though, because he’s also crusading for partisan elections.

    the fact is that on council, you have to work with people to accomplish anything. so Cape can endorse Davis and build some good will with moderate Dems, then throw her weight behind another candidate who might get her a coalition vote. Cape might be saying she needs the some of those Lite folks on her side down the road.

    there’s not much difference between this council and the councils we’ve had in the past.

    Brian Peterson – Democrat
    Ed Hay – Democrat
    Barbara Field – Democrat
    Leni Sitnick – Democrat, mayor
    Chuck Clonninger – Democrat
    Charles Worley – Democrat
    Terry Bellamy – Democrat

    Jim Ellis- Democrat (conservative)
    Joe Dunn – Republican
    Carl Mumpower – Republican
    Charles Worley – Democrat, mayor
    Holly Jones – Democrat
    Brian Peterson – Democrat
    Terry Bellamy – Democrat

    Brownie Newman – Democrat
    Robin Cape – Democrat
    Terry Bellamy – Democrat, mayor
    Holly Jones – Democrat
    Jan Davis – Democrat (conservative)
    Carly Mumpower – Republican

  10. Nam Vet

    What does “progressive” mean to me? In most cases, the “progressives” I have met are fuzzy-headed counter-culture types who think that the opposite of what we have here and what works in America must be a good alternative. Primarily, progressives are in favor of SOCIALISM…as long as the other guy pays for it. The “rich” should be taxed into parity. The problem here is that the middle class is considered “rich” and the very limosine liberals who are in favor of high taxes will themselves be unable to drive Volvos and shop at Earthfare if Hillary gets elected. Yet these cappucino liberals are too dense to realize this. This rant describes most of the “progressives” I’ve met. Oh, and these folks have no appreciation for the freedom and opportunity bought and paid for by preceding generations who fought in wars and worked hard to give their children “a better life”. These recepients of the “better life” just whine it “isn’t enough”. If this wasn’t so painful for our country and way of life, it would be funny. :) Progressives? HUH!

  11. Melissa

    I’m a liberal. I have never referred to myself as “progressive.” And I say “global warming,” not “climate change.”

    And I don’t want any politician who don’t want to work with or respectfully consider the opinons of people in other parties.

    No poltician should adhere to a cabal of sycophants or only to people who feel that their voice is more important because they stuck the politician’s bumper sticker on the back of their vehicle, or because they gave them money. They do. But they shouldn’t.

    I don’t like it when Bush does it, and I don’t like it when city council does it.

    When Holly Jones voted for the Wal-Mart Supercenter, I was surprised, but impressed with her integrity. The city set out rules and conditions, the developer followed them, and she felt she had to vote for it.

    Meanwhile, the one guy who voted against it shops there anyway.

  12. chuck

    Nam Vet,

    Instead of hanging out in the Earthfare parking lot, criticizing bumper-sticker liberals, I suggest you do some work with the Bountiful Cities Project, or cook and serve some meals with the Food Not Bombs crew, or work with any of the many fair-housing groups in town. These are just a few examples of people working to better their environment in a local, meaningful way. They contribute to our community significantly, and are real-live people with quirks, convictions and contradictions.
    It is so easy to be cynical, and even easier in a town such as this to out-of-hand criticize the middle-class ‘progressives’ who spend more on their dog than i do on my food in a year. But to allow them, by comparison, to define ‘progressive’ only serves to better you own political axe-to-grind. It’s like criticizing Conservatives by Bashing the bush Administration. One has very little to do with the other. So criticize the current Council members for being ‘cappacino liberals’, because that is a commonly held sentiment, to be sure. But I wonder if you are aware of the other kind of ‘progressive’ or ‘liberal’ or ‘person’ out there who actually practices what they preach (or more than likely doesn’t ‘preach’ at all), stretches their imagination, and seeks to learn new ways of living that may help all of us get through these interesting times.
    It is much easier to be cynical than to be helpful and productive.

  13. Nam Vet

    Chuck, I assure you I don’t spend much time in the Earthfare parking lot. Just ranting a bit about personal observations. I used to be far leftwinger back when I was young and grew disenchanted. I now describe myself as closer to libertarian than any of the 2 major parties. Libertarians are the original liberals. Todays liberals are in favor of high taxes and big government. Libertarians are in favor of plenty of personal freedom, small government, and low taxes. Let everyone find their own happiness long as they don’t step on someone else’s toes. A big government turns oppressive. Thomas Jefferson said it best “the government that governs least governs best.”

    As far as working to help others, I have actually done a lot of volunteer work with low income seniors. I have delivered meals on wheels. I have worked for Catholic Social Services at low pay in case management. I have been an Americorps Vista supervisor. I am also a US Army combat veteran. I think you could say I answered John F Kennedy’s call to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. The reason I pointed out the liberal yuppie hypocrisy is in the hope of waking them up. THEY are the ones you should be asking to serve food. Most of these folks I know are too busy pleasing themselves and don’t take the time to really think of others…as a rule. I do highly recommend volunteer work helping the less fortunate. It is very rewarding, on the feeling level.

  14. Clocky

    This was well said by Ash:

    the fact is that on council, you have to work with people to accomplish anything. so Cape can endorse Davis and build some good will with moderate Dems, then throw her weight behind another candidate who might get her a coalition vote.

    With this in mind, does anybody remember how effective Jim Skalski was on Asheville City Council?

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