A lot of change has come to Buncombe County’s situation in the N.C. House of Representatives over the last year. All three of its districts had their numbers changed and lines altered as part of the state’s contentious redistricting process; all three incumbent Democratic representatives announced their retirements within a week of each other. Susan Fisher has already vacated her position, with party leaders choosing Caleb Rudow as her replacement for the current District 114 in the county’s northwest. (Rudow is seeking reelection in the new District 116, which covers much of the same territory.)
Despite that prior excitement, primary season for Buncombe’s House seats is relatively uneventful. The only contest taking place is on the Republican side for the new District 115 in the county’s southwest — roughly corresponding to the current District 116 held by Rep. Brian Turner — which will determine who faces Democrat Lindsey Prather in the general election.
First-time candidate Sherry Higgins, a certified public accountant from Arden, is running against hotelier Pratik Bhakta of Asheville. Bhakta mounted a bid for Asheville City Council in 2017, finishing 10th in a 12-person primary field, and was among the six finalists chosen by Council to replace resigning member Vijay Kapoor in 2020.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
Previous candidacy or offices held: No previous office held.
Key endorsements: Did not respond.
Amount of money raised: $0 as of March 29
Top three donors: N/A
What would you bring to the General Assembly that other candidates don’t? I bring a diverse perspective to the General Assembly. As an immigrant from India, I can see things from various perspectives through my cultural upbringing and my life experiences. I bring versatility and the ability to reach across the aisle to accomplish goals.
What do you see as the greatest specific need for your district compared to the rest of Western North Carolina, and how would you propose meeting it? There are many needs, but first, we need to start healing the divide. We need to start creating more opportunities for better jobs and bring more economic vitality to our community. We need to attract better businesses and industries that bring these jobs to our beautiful mountains. I think that would be a bipartisan goal, and certainly we can bring that to the forefront to make N.C. more attractive and secure bigger businesses to expand/relocate here.
What role should state government play in managing the affairs of WNC? Government should play a minimum role in managing the affairs of WNC. Government needs to be of the people, by the people, for the people. Today we see more partisan politics instead of actually getting things done. I’m stepping up for the people, to serve them, to do seva (a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service”).
What one statewide issue will you prioritize on reaching the GA, and what specific actions will you take to drive change on it? Education. As a community and society, we should be teaching our kids the fundamentals of math, science, arts, finance, etc., and preparing them to achieve excellence so that they may be successful as they continue to grow into adulthood. The U.S. is falling behind in education excellence when compared globally to other countries. We need to focus on the things that matter to our students, parents and teachers, not political agendas or ideologies.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? We are all part of the human race. America is a melting pot of diverse thoughts because it is composed of many races, religions, ethnicities, preferences and obviously political viewpoints. I have met many folks that are of another party, and, frankly, I value them and their opinions just as they value mine. We may not agree how to achieve certain things, but that does not mean we cannot work together to find common ground.
Website: Did not respond
Occupation: Certified public accountant
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not answer
Key endorsements: Did not answer
Amount of money raised: Did not answer
Top three donors: Did not answer
What would you bring to the General Assembly that other candidates don’t? I will bring to the General Assembly the experience and skills that I have acquired during my 29 years as a CPA and small-business owner. I have learned how to prioritize what’s important and meet deadlines while keeping current on ever-changing tax laws.
What do you see as the greatest specific need for your district compared to the rest of Western North Carolina, and how would you propose meeting it? Did not answer.
What role should state government play in managing the affairs of WNC? I believe that state government is necessary for continuity of infrastructure, quality education and the general welfare of the citizens of North Carolina. But I feel that the affairs of WNC are best served by our local governing agencies.
What one statewide issue will you prioritize on reaching the GA, and what specific actions will you take to drive change on it? Did not answer.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? I find common ground with members of other political parties in my desire to keep WNC the beautiful place that it is.