While only one Buncombe County commission seat was actually decided in last night’s primary, in all the races where a woman was running, she was selected by her party.
In an historic victory, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is slated to become the first openly LGBT Buncombe County Commissioner. In the hotly contested District 1 race, she defeated City Councilman Gordon Smith and civil-rights activist Isaac Coleman. Always the underdog, Coleman earned a respectable 17.5 percent of the vote while the battle for first was between Beach-Ferrara and Smith. Though the race remained tight as results came in, Beach-Ferrara finally won by over 1000 votes. A visibly tired but satisfied Beach-Ferrara expressed her feelings on the victory, “I feel honored and I feel humbled and I feel ready to get to work.”
With no Republican opposition Beach-Ferrara is the presumptive winner of the District 1 seat.
Current County Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl soundly defeated the defiantly anti-liberal Chad Nesbitt with a full 60 percent of the countywide Republican vote. She will now go on to face off with fellow Commissioner Brownie Newman as they vie for long-time Chairman David Gantt’s open seat.
Nancy Nehls Nelson fended off three opponents in the District 2 Democratic primary, capturing nearly a third of the votes in her race. Hot on her heels were builder Matt Kern and firefighter Larry Dodson, each with about a quarter of the votes. Bringing up the rear in the crowded field was retired deputy Scott Bissinger. Asked why she won and how she expects to go forward in the fall, Nelson said “I believe I won the Democratic Primary bid for Buncombe County Commissioner in District 2 because my platform reflects the concerns and issues of the voters. My campaign will continue to echo those concerns as we move into the General Election cycle. Now that the Primary is over, the party will be united to succeed in November. I want to thank the voters who supported me and most of all recognize my campaign team. This victory was made possible by the time and effort they put into my campaign. It was exhilarating to work with them. We’re ready to continue working hard and moving forward.”
Meanwhile on the Republican side in the same district, incumbent Commissioner Mike Fryar earned nearly 58 percent of the 8,622 votes cast, placing him solidly above his younger Tea Party challenger Jordan Burchette. “It was a good showing I thought and I thought that Mr. Burchette did a good job. I understand that he’s young, but he’s learning and he needs to stay around. I hope he is the future of the party. I’m facing Ms. Nelson this fall. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going and I can win my seat for four more years. Because it’s my purpose to work for the people of Buncombe County.”
District 2 has a history of close general election contests and is the most contended area for Commissioners. Right now Democrats hold a one-seat majority on Commission. However, if the vulnerable seat were picked up by Democrats and the Chair stays under Democratic control, the margin could widen to approach the levels of Democratic control of the body that proceeded the election of commissioners by district. While it isn’t necessarily indicative of fall results, it is worth noting that about 46 percent more votes were cast in the Democratic District 2 race (12,594) than in the Republican race in the same precincts.