The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is losing one of its members, as Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl will vacate her seat. She intends to end her bid as the Republican candidate for Chair of the Board as well. In an email sent on the evening of Monday, May 16, Commissioner DeBruhl said, “It is with a heavy heart, but yet a feeling of optimism that I announce that I will no longer be a candidate for Chair of the Buncombe County Commission.”
She goes on to note the reason is connected to a business opportunity that is not located in North Carolina. “I firmly believe that elected officials should reside in the same jurisdiction as their constituents. This important opportunity is likely to require me to spend a significant amount of time outside Buncombe County and North Carolina. As a result, I also intend to respectfully resign my current seat representing District Three.”
District Three covers western Buncombe County including Leicester and Enka. Commissioner DeBruhl says she understands some people will be disappointed but counters saying, “I hope they also understand that I strongly believe political service should be temporary. I believe our founding fathers designed our system of government to encourage citizen representation and to discourage professional politicians.”
She ends the email stating, “From the bottom of my heart, I sincerely thank each and every person who has voted for me and supported me over the past three elections. May God bless the people of Buncombe County.”
Xpress’ requests for interviews have not been returned by Commissioner DeBruhl.
Nathan West, chairman of the Buncombe County GOP, says the announcement was a surprise to him, but says he appreciates Commissioner DeBruhl’s time and service. He also says it’s his understanding the decision is effective immediately.
Meanwhile, Chad Nesbitt says he’s “Totally stunned.” Nesbitt is the runner up in March’s Republican primary for Chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “If you’ve got a business deal that you know you’re going to be moving out of state, then you would have known that two months ago. I don’t understand why she ran if she thought she might be moving. So, I’m disappointed in her, to be honest with you. It’s a lack of responsibility on her part for doing this. We’re talking about thousands of people’s lives that she represented and to just back out two months after the primary is just crazy.”
However, West says he believes this was not known ahead of time, “It happened really quickly. It was something that happened within the past couple of weeks. You know, sometimes opportunities just present themselves. It’s not something she has been planning for any lengthy amount of time.”
In regard to naming a replacement West says they have about 30 days to do so. He says, “There’s a plethora of possibilities and people willing to take up that conservative cause.” West says the process involves calling a special meeting where District Three precinct chairs will elect someone to be officially appointed by David Gantt, Chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. When asked if there is concern about Gantt, a Democrat, not appointing their nominee he says, “It is unheard of that they don’t take our recommendation.”
As for who Nesbitt thinks should take Commissioner DeBruhl’s current seat, he says, “Me. Because we’re in a pickle right now and we’re without a voice for our district. You’re going to have to find someone extremely strong and aggressive to combat what’s getting ready to happen here with higher taxes, the HB2 concerns and things like that.”
He goes on to say he would also welcome the chance to be the Republican candidate for Chair in the general election stating, “Absolutely. I would take it in a heartbeat if I could run against Brownie Newman.”
West acknowledges Nesbitt has expressed interest in being nominated to represent District Three, but says, “It’s all fairly new. We don’t have a specific name yet.” A ten day notice will have to be given before the District Three precinct officers can hold their special election.
As for Commissioner Newman, the Democrat candidate for Chair, he says the news of Commissioner DeBruhl vacating her seat and exiting the election surprised him and was “Totally out of the blue.”
He’s not sure if, or how, it might affect his campaign saying, “At the end of the day I’m just focused on getting my message out about what I want to do as Chair in terms of providing effective leadership for Buncombe County on issues that people care about. In that way it won’t change anything.”
In regard to having a new board member, he says, “My hope would be that it’s a person who has a desire to work well with other members of the commission, even if we don’t agree on every issue. Hopefully people can work together to find common ground on some issues and where we don’t agree, can disagree respectfully and work together in a way that people want us to.”
However, Commissioner Newman says he’s not sure who will emerge to fill the District Three seat and potentially run against him in November. “I don’t have any thoughts on who might be interested in serving. It’s just too early to tell… We will see how the process unfolds for the Republicans to find someone else to be appointed now that the current commissioner has decided to quit.”
West says in regard to November’s election, the party is not sure exactly what state law says about replacing DeBruhl on the ballot. “The North Carolina GOP law council is reviewing everything and once we have an answer we will put out a statement,” he says.
UPDATED: Trena Parker, director of the Buncombe County Board of Elections, says Republicans have 75 days before November’s election to name a new candidate to be featured on the ballot for Chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.