Three newcomers landed the top spots in the Asheville City Council primary on Oct. 6, coming in ahead of two incumbents vying to keep their seats. But a dramatically low voter turnout cast a shadow on the evening.
Cecil Bothwell, Gordon Smith and Esther Manheimer (in that order) lead the pack of six Council candidates that will advance to the general election in November and vie for three seats. Council member Kelly Miller, who was appointed one year ago to fill a seat left by Holly Jones, came in fourth, ahead of two-term Council member Carl Mumpower. Newcomer J. Neal Jackson filled out the sixth spot.
Meanwhile, Mayor Terry Bellamy dominated the mayoral primary, and will face Robert Edwards in the general election.
Bothwell and Smith, finishing 145 votes apart, both credited early campaigning and grassroots organization for their ranking.
“This really establishes what grassroots is all about,” Bothwell said. “We had the largest organization, and it worked.”
“It is a relentless effort that has allowed us to do the things we have,” Smith said.
In all, 7,113 voters cast ballots in the primary. That’s about a tenth of Asheville’s population, a number that was not wasted on the candidates.
“It’s disappointing,” Miller said. “It’s surprising, considering as much effort as we put into getting out the vote.”
“It’s like nobody cared,” Manheimer said. “It’s our job to [get people] to the polls by any means necessary.”
In an e-mail to his supporters, Mumpower noted that “the election was realistically decided by the 90 percent who stayed home.”
He also noted that, in Asheville elections, “the top three primary winners typically win the general election.”
Meanwhile, as candidates watched results came in at their election day parties, incumbent Council member Robin Cape was at her own party rounding up supporters for her write-in campaign. Though she won’t be listed on the November ballot, voters will have an opportunity to write her name in, making her the seventh candidate in what is typically a six-person field.
Here’s the breakdown of final results; the names of the candidates who will advance to the general election are in bold:
Total voted: 7,113
Terry Bellamy: 5,150
Robert Edwards: 1,157
Shad Marsh: 283
Denise Pendleton: 167
City Council race:
Cecil Bothwell: 3,718
Gordon Smith: 3,573
Esther Manheimer: 3,275
Kelly Miller: 2,479
Carl Mumpower: 2,330
J. Neal Jackson: 1,270
Ryan Croft: 1,034
Cesar Romero: 405
Jenny Bowen: 540
Larry Chastain: 314
— Brian Postelle and David Forbes, staff writers