The replacement of longtime Buncombe County Register of Deeds Otto DeBruhl is shaping up to be a battle between the young and old guards of the Democratic Party.
When DeBruhl announced his retirement on Jan. 31 after 32 years on the job, he expressed his preference for Assistant Register of Deeds Joann Morgan to take the helm, declaring that “there is not a more qualified register of deeds in the State of North Carolina than Joann.” But today, Feb. 3, Drew Reisinger announced his candidacy for the job and Democratic Party Chair Charles Carter sounds like he might follow suit.
The Executive Committee of the Democratic Party — made up of Buncombe precinct chairs and vice chairs, elected officials and state leaders — has the right to vote within 30 days to elect someone to fulfill the remaining two years of DeBruhl’s term. If the party fails to act by March 1, however, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will appoint his replacement.
Morgan has worked with DeBruhl since he first took over the office in 1979, and touts her many years of on-the-job experience in her pitch for the promotion. She also points to her experience as the first female Democrat elected to Asheville City Council in 1975, and subsequent years serving the party as a precinct chair and as president of the Buncombe Democratic Women’s Club.
“The [state] legislature’s coming down with some new requirements for registers. A lot of changes are coming in these next two years, and I have the knowledge about that,” she explains. “I’ve been working here with Otto and attending a lot of training and school. … I’m just looking to continue the wonderful office operation that Otto has started.”
But the 27-year-old Reisinger maintains that the office would benefit from a fresh perspective.
“I think we need to bring the register of deeds office into the 21st century,” he asserts. “Otto and Joann have done an excellent job putting a lot more things online, but we don’t have a user friendly website. And there’s a lot more we can do to save taxpayers money.”
With a background in political organizing and fresh from managing Patsy Keever‘s winning Statehouse campaign, Reisinger says he’s working to build a wave of grassroots support.
“The goal is to talk to folks and let them know that there’s a lot we can do to modernize the register of deeds office,” he explains. “We’ve already got a good campaign of folks around us.”
Meanwhile, Carter says that his run depends on “getting a gauge of the Executive Committee.
“I have been hearing from a lot of people who would like me to run. So if that’s the case, I’ll represent our party and represent our county and put my hat in there and do it.”
A former Buncombe County school teacher and state senator, Carter owns Mountain Java coffeehouse on Merrimon Avenue.
Asked about Carter’s potential candidacy, however, Morgan suggests that it might have more to do with economic troubles than a sense of wanting to serve the public.
“I’m not looking for a job,” she asserts. “I know Charles Carter wants it very bad because of his business and he needs an income. Drew of course is in the same boat.”
It’s a charge that they both deny.
“We’re doing very well with the coffee shop,” declares Carter. “I’m not going to get into the name calling or into trying to bring anybody down. … It has no place in this.”
He goes on to explain that, regardless of who takes the position, he thinks it will be important to maintain party unity going into the 2012 election cycle.
“We were so unified going into this last election,” he says. “And I take a lot of pride in being part of that team.”
It’s a sentiment that Reisinger agrees with, adding that “in 2012, I think this could be a prime target for the Republican Party.
“Dems are going to need the strongest possible ticket. I think my campaign experience would bring a lot to that ticket.”
However, Morgan points out that they’re not the only ones interested in the job who know how to win elections. “Otto’s been elected to eight terms,” she notes. “I worked on all those campaigns.”