Tensions erupting among different factions of Buncombe GOP

Buncombe County Republican Party Chair Henry Mitchell is pictured here, with the party’s former parliamentarian Dorothea Alderfer in the background.

In the wake of the primary elections, tensions continue to mount among different factions of the Buncombe County Republican Party.

A relatively small but vocal group of longtime GOP leaders are targeting current party chair Henry Mitchell with criticism, charging that his misguided leadership of the organization is responsible for several grievances, including the recent defeat of Amendment One in Buncombe County (it passed statewide overwhelmingly) and last year’s successful sales–tax referendum. Some are even pushing him to step aside and let someone else take the helm.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and many supporters point to a wide range of successes and improvements since he succeeded Chad Nesbitt in March of 2011, making the case that the new leader has gotten the party back on track after years of neglect under the very people who are now criticizing it. It’s them, who should step aside, they argue.

Both sides agree on one thing, however: The current level of internal rancor won’t serve the party — or its candidates — if it continues into the fall.

Different positions

Lingering tensions over the sales-tax referendum, differing perspectives on social issues, and personality clashes are all at the heart of the conflict.

Robert Malt, who served a nine-month stint as BCGOP party chair in 2008 and 2009, notes that the party’s executive committee, which includes precinct leaders, officers and elected officials, declined to take an official stance against the sales tax last year. The measure passed by a razor-thin margin of 500 votes and empowered the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to raise the rate this April by a quarter-cent to fund capital projects at A-B Tech. Malt lead the main political action committee that fought against it.

“Had we had a chairman who stood up and said, ‘no, we should take a position against it,’ I’m sure the executive committee would’ve voted to take a position,” he maintains. “They followed his lead, essentially. And a core plank of the Republican platform, is to not raise taxes. So if we’re not for keeping taxes low, or not increasing them, what do we stand for?”

However, Mitchell counters that he was an outspoken critic, pointing to numerous media outlets who quoted him arguing against it. And Mike Fryar, a Republican who has made repeal of the sales-tax a central issue in his campaign for the board of commissioners in District 2, sings Mitchell’s praises.

“He’s the best chair we’ve ever had,” Fryar asserts.

Malt also says Mitchell and the BCGOP’s lack of organized response to a downtown Asheville topless rally that happened last summer was a major cause of consternation. Instead, a counter-protest was organized by a group that included Nesbitt and former Republican City Council member Carl Mumpower. (In a recent Facebook post, Nesbitt seems to concur with Malt that his successor needs to be replaced, but as of this writing, he hadn’t yet returned a call from Xpress seeking comment.)

“Those were two pretty core issues,” Malt says. “So to me, he’s basically taking no leadership whatsoever. And people are very unhappy.”

However, Mitchell argues that although the party, under his leadership, had higher priorities than fighting the topless rally, it hasn’t shied away from important social issues.

He ticks off a long list of efforts he and the party made to support Amendment One, including outreach to the press, phone banking, sign/flyer distribution and coordination with local churches. The effort made a big difference in the local vote, Mitchell maintains, noting that although ultimately Buncombe County voters came out against it, the margin was much slimmer than opponents had hoped for.

Still, former first vice chair of the BCGOP and conservative talk host Don Yelton, has been making hay over the issue, arguing more should have been done.

Sour grapes?

Mitchell brushes off the attacks as sour grapes from a group of people who miss the limelight.

“There’s no civil war on our part, from the committee. … The conflict is with Don [Yelton] Chad Nesbitt and Robert Malt, because I’m not pushing their agenda and doing what they want to do” he maintains. “They had their chance. … And they couldn’t do anything. They weren’t organized, had no committees formed, had no money in the bank, very few precinct chairs. … it was like a circus.”

In contrast, Mitchell touts a long list of accomplishments over the last year. The party has organized several new committees and groups, retooled its communications team, opened a new headquarters in east Asheville, hosted several successful candidate forums, sent out mailing cards to thousands of newly registered voters and more than doubled its amount of precinct chairs to about 70.

“We raised more money in the first month than Nesbitt and Malt did in their whole tenures as chairmen,” he asserts, noting that a February Lincoln Reagan fundraising dinner attracted over 250 people, raising over $12,000. “So we’ve got money in the bank.”

He continues: “Don and them are out in left field, and we’re rounding the bases. We’re trying to get organized, and mobilized, and energized, and make a difference in November when we vote.”

Without naming names, David King, a candidate for commissioner in District 3, echoed that sentiment when he spoke at the annual party convention in March.

“I’d like to thank Henry Mitchell for the dignity and respect he’s brought back to the GOP,” he declared, garnering applause. “And certainly I would like to follow through with that dignity and respect as a Republican commissioner.”

Coming to a head

It looks like some of the tension may come to a head on Monday, May 21, when the executive committee next meets and will consider a “Security Amendment” that would bar anyone other than its members from attending meetings.

A draft of the resolution notes that “Opponents to BCGOP success are shown to use infiltration, intimidation and violence to otherwise disrupt, delay and destroy BCGOP efforts to build a well-organized approach to campaigning.” And although Mitchell says, “It’s not to restrict anyone or put anybody out,” he adds: “Going in to the general election, we need to make sure we got the right people in there organizing and planning what we’re going to do in November.”

Asked if he’s researched the privacy policies of other county parties, Mitchell, says “no,” and jokingly notes: “Other county parties don’t have the trouble we have in Buncombe County, because we have Don Yelton and Chad Nesbitt.”

Yelton counters that the measure is akin to “creating a gestapo, where they control what you think, say and do.” And Malt calls it “total nonsense.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell recently penned a letter to Malt, lambasting him for actions he took during the primary under the auspices of Buncombe Forward, an outside conservative group he founded that endorsed and than retracted its support of commission chair candidate Glenda Weinert over the sales-tax issue (Weinert was defeated in the primary by JB Howard).

Noting that Malt continues to work on the GOP executive committee as a precinct chair, Mitchell wrote: “It is my opinion and that of others within the state organization, that BF [Buncombe Forward] was working directly against a Republican candidate in a primary and this action, by any member or officer of the BCGOP Executive Committee, will not be tolerated in the future.”

Dorothea Alderfer also served on both the executive committee and Buncombe Forward, until recently, when Mitchell asked her to step down from her longtime job as the BCGOP’s parliamentarian.

Mitchell says she was doing a good job, but he “just felt like it was time for a change, to give someone else an opportunity to get involved.”

But Malt is convinced otherwise, maintaining: “It was obvious to everyone there that it was done in retaliation, to get back at Buncombe Forward, or get back at her for being a member.”

The division within the party, according to Malt, “is just unbearable at this point.”

And Mitchell agrees that something’s got to give. Citing Malt, Yelton and Nesbitt by name again, he declares: “It’s come to a point where enough’s enough.”

“And if they don’t want to be part of the organization, and promote our Republican ticket, and get on the train …” he continues. “If they don’t want to get on board, then they can get off and out of the way.”


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32 thoughts on “Tensions erupting among different factions of Buncombe GOP

  1. Barry Summers

    C’mon, everyone join in: Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt!

  2. Dionysis

    “”Opponents to BCGOP success are shown to use infiltration, intimidation and violence to otherwise disrupt, delay and destroy BCGOP efforts to build a well-organized approach to campaigning.”

    Really? I guess I missed the news reports on all of this. And besides, with Nesbitt, Yelton and company hanging around like drunken fruit flies in the punch, who needs to do more but sit back, watch and enjoy?

    • Barry Summers

      “…who needs to do more but sit back, watch and enjoy?”

      …and chant “Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt! Nes-bitt!”

      He’s the gift that keeps on giving.

  3. Orbit DVD

    I just can’t stop smiling :)

    For those involved in the Buncombe GOP, please listen to me, as someone who has no problem voting Republican. You are in danger of being totally irrelevant in this county. The shenanigans put on by certain prominent members might get the press and some attention in the short run, but only make a mockery of a party that I want to support.

    I know it and you know it, people are moving here at an alarming rate. A lot of those people, the majority it seems, are liberal and independent. You can still win elections but you need to promote what the Republicans used to be about… less government and protection of personal freedoms. Right now you are not doing that.

    Talking to as many people as I do, I know I am not alone thinking this. Convince us that the Republicans here are legitimate choices.

    • sharpleycladd

      It hasn’t been a political party for some time, Orbit. It’s a panicky mob running for the exit, selling out our civil discourse to foreign fascists like Ayn Rand, eagerly looking for the next “other” to crucify. You cannot be a patriotic American and vote Republican.

  4. Matt Hoagland

    Henry Mitchell has been an incredibly effective leader for the BCGOP. His leadership, and ability to focus on what’s truly imporant for a change, will prove to be a turning point for our party.

    Those who have nothing better to do than play politics full time mock the new direction of Buncombe Republicans at their peril.

    • Barry Summers

      Are you warning us or the old guard BCGOP? ‘Cause if you’re saying that I’m at “peril”, that will just make me mock you more.


  5. Michael Muller

    It’s not always about you, Barry. Despite what you might think ;)


  6. sharpleycladd

    I will troll this thread until I get a bite. Using a triple lead sinker. Bottom-feeders you know. Republicans. Bottom-feeders.

  7. D. Dial

    This is what transpires when a group of people (no matter how small that group) insist on a my way or the hiway approach to politics.

    Mitchel comes across as a reasonable man. jmho

  8. sharpleycladd

    Republicans have stolen my rights – I can only vote for 2 of my County Commissioners thanks to them. They’re thieves, and there’s no honor among thieves.

  9. Dionysis

    All Mr. Mitchell has to do is act like an adult and avoid the juvenile stunts of recent and he’ll do much to restore some of the Party’s dignity.

  10. Barry Summers

    “It’s not always about you, Barry. Despite what you might think ;)


    Of course it is, you silly man. I would think you’d have figured that out by now. ???????????

  11. Barry Summers

    Please disregard those question marks – there was an Arabic letter there, but the new website apparently won’t post those like the old one did…

  12. Betty Budd

    The Democrats must be having a huge laugh at the BCGOP. We are in a fight for our very lives persuading people to vote for candidates who will make rational decisions and for voters who will elect a President who will not continue to dupe us with hope and change that does not work. I do not understand this rdiculous discussion of the Chair of the GOP. He is a big boy and can stand the heat. Folks get busy and get your neighbors to the polls, help them understand what liberty and freedom are all about.Sounds like a bunch of people with too much time on their hands. Get down to VICTORY 12 and get busy!!! Betty

  13. Dionysis

    “The Democrats must be having a huge laugh at the BCGOP.”

    I’m unaffiliated and am still having a huge laugh.

    “We are in a fight for our very lives persuading people to vote for candidates…”

    You’re just teasing.

  14. Barry Summers

    “I’m unaffiliated and am still having a huge laugh.”

    Me too. Not just at the infighting, which happens in any group from time to time, but at the underlying tone that emerges into the light occasionally in comments from the likes of Mr. Cates, or the actions of Rep. Moffitt. In a City, County, and State that are all majority Democratic-registered voters, it’s still massively unfair that Republicans aren’t guaranteed to win seats.

    Hey, is anyone else noticing that articles with long Facebook comment threads make your computer run slower? Mine is older, and in need of an OS re-load, but still. No other MX page loads slower or wonkier than one with lots of FB on it. Maybe it’s just me…

  15. Dionysis

    “No other MX page loads slower or wonkier than one with lots of FB on it.”

    Perhaps that is the reason that it seems to take forever to get the MountainXpress to load. I usually read several websites in the morning before getting ready for work, and I have given up getting this website to load. It will just sit there with a ‘waiting on website’ message, then time out. In fact, it seems that the site cannot be loaded at all until later in the morning. This happens day after day. I wondered if it was just slow servers, but maybe it’s the Curse of Facebook behind it all.

  16. Barry Summers

    Speaking of the healing love of Jesus Christ, FOX News tells us that a Baptist preacher in a town about an hour from here, got up in front of his flock & preached that all the lesbians and the “queers and homosexuals” should be rounded up & herded behind electrified fences & left there to die.


    I’ve never been more ashamed of the religion I grew up in. I see nothing but a race to hell in the current persecution of gays & lesbians by these proud, righteous Republican Christian men.


  17. Barry Summers

    Hey, try this experiment: with your browser on this page, open up a new tab and go to another site as quickly as you can, and time exactly how long it takes. Then close the new tab, go from this XPress thread to another one without a lot of FB comments, and try the exact same thing, going to the same other site, timing it again.

    I did it three times to be sure, and the result was the same each time. Opening up a new tab to Huffington Post took my computer 45 seconds from this thread, but only 6 seconds from any other thread. The only difference I can see is that there’s a long queue of Facebook comments on this page.

    And every other function slows down while I am on this page, as well. Typing, opening/closing other applications, etc.

  18. Dionysis

    “try this experiment…”

    I did, and got the same results. Mystery solved. It IS the Curse of Facebook!

    On the hate-mongering so-called ‘preacher’, if his call to murder is not the most heinous example of a moronic piece of flotsam using the color of religion to promote bigotry and violence, I couldn’t imagine what would be. It does appear that protests are afoot in front of this den of intolerance, however.

    There seems to be no shortage of politicians and religious whack jobs eager to embarrass the state.

  19. Dionysis

    Hey MtXpress, can’t you guys fix it so double posts don’t regularly happen? Pretty please?

  20. Margaret Williams

    Have to delete duplicates manually, when we catch ’em. Unfortunately, you may have posted a comment during one of the site’s ongoing hiccups

    • bill smith

      Yeah, there sure is a 100% increase in the “site’s ongoing hiccups” ever since the online remodel.

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