Incumbent District 49 Sen. Julie Mayfield ascended to her seat after serving on Asheville City Council. Fellow Democrat Sandra Kilgore is now attempting to walk the same path — which makes her Mayfield’s primary opponent.
Kilgore has presented herself as a more moderate voice than Mayfield, attacking the incumbent for her proposal to institute a quarter-cent local sales tax for public transit funding. Kilgore was the only Council member to vote against dismantling the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville last year, and she is supported by the N.C. Property Rights Fund, a real estate sector advocacy group that is largely endorsing Republicans in state-level races.
Taylon Breeden, who finished last in the 2018 Democratic primary for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 3, is also seeking the seat. The hemp entrepreneur is endorsed by the local Democratic Socialists of America and has identified fair wages and mental health as campaign priorities.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican John Anderson of Candler in the November general election.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
Occupation: Owner of The Pot Stirred cafe in downtown Asheville and Simply Extract hemp and botanical extraction lab
Previous candidacy or offices held: Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 3 candidate in 2018.
Key endorsements: Democratic Socialists of America, Asheville chapter; Leap-Forward NC
Amount of money raised: $2,400
Top three donors: Beatriz Higuerey, Alan Rosenthal, Greg Fox
What would you bring to the General Assembly that other candidates don’t? I bring bold leadership that is unafraid to call out corruption and big-money interests in Raleigh. We need more young and working-class people stepping up to put people over profits. My experience with hemp and cannabis legislation will be an asset as we approach federal legalization. Being a local business owner, I can better champion against the myth that higher wages will wipe out small-business owners. When people thrive, our economy thrives.
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? Fair wages. People can no longer afford to rent or own a home here, and locals are being displaced from their communities and families. Our mental health suffers when we are living paycheck to paycheck. We are losing good teachers and nurses and can’t recruit more. We can’t afford to take care of our health or buy healthy food for our families. Our entire community suffers when businesses feel they can profit off working-class people.
What role should state government play in managing the affairs of WNC? Giving our local government back its control gives our residents more power. The power grab happened to keep local governments from banning fracking locally and to keep discriminatory laws in place, like the disgusting bathroom bill, HB2. Shifting power locally gives us a better chance of being heard in addressing local and environmental issues without needing Raleigh’s approval.
What one statewide issue will you prioritize on reaching the GA, and what specific actions will you take to drive change on it? Mental health care. Buncombe County lacks the resources and facilities we need to address our mentally ill. As our homelessess, crime, substance abuse and suicide numbers climb, we must better fund our mental health care professionals, open more facilities and help people get the access they need. When we devalue our community members based on their illnesses, we erode as a society.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? Everyone is tired of our government not working for the people. We’re exhausted by the party systems dividing us. We want better schools for our children. We want clean drinking water and a safe environment to live in. We want health care that protects us and our families, no matter how much money we make. We want to go to work and get paid fairly. We want to provide a life for ourselves and the people we love that’s worth living.
Occupation: Owner/broker, Kilgore & Associates
Previous candidacy or offices held: Current member of Asheville City Council
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 bring a history of lived life experiences and a passion for fighting for the most vulnerable. I have had the opportunity to travel to many cities and countries around the world and garner incredible exposure, training which was instrumental in refining my communication skills. I’m home with fresh eyes, fresh ears and a fresh commitment to put forth policy that will deliver the greatest benefit to the largest number of people in our community.
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? Our residents seem to be under siege from increases in property value, which is making homeownership only a dream for many. Increasing property value is also is driving up taxes, which is affecting many homeowners, especially retirees. Housing shortages make this situation more frightening. The impact goes far beyond real estate — if a child is not in safe, secure housing, learning becomes impossible. The consequence is an education gap that will impact both today and the future of WNC.
What role should state government play in managing the affairs of WNC? Limited at best. Local municipalities do not need to be micromanaged by the state Assembly. We have capable local government to manage locally. The state Assembly should, however, ensure the equitable distribution of goods, services and monies secured from the federal government through a state budget that ensures every district is included and well served.
What one statewide issue will you prioritize on reaching the GA, and what specific actions will you take to drive change on it? My strong suit is legislation regarding real estate, and the laws on the books have eroded the wealth of native WNC residents. I will seek to modify inequitable property taxation; push for housing initiatives to preserve and increase our housing supply; and improve housing security for our children, elderly and homeless. I will push for increasing the homestead exemptions for natives and seniors in WNC, many of whom are being forced out of their homes due to increasing property values.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? We have all taken up the mantle to do the difficult work of governing. We strive to do the best we can for the people, operating from a place of integrity amid an environment of distrust, special interests and heavy-handed bureaucracy. We all want good education for our children, comfort and security for our elderly. We seek guidance from a higher power and we simply want to do the right thing! I am eager to reach across the aisle.
Occupation: Co-director, MountainTrue
Previous candidacy or offices held: Current District 49 state senator, elected 2020; Asheville City Council, 2015-20
Key endorsements: Sierra Club, Lillian’s List, Planned Parenthood Votes South Atlantic, AFL-CIO, N.C. Association of Educators
Amount of money raised: $41,801 as of March 23
Top three donors: Mack Pearsall, Dave Erb, Rich Wasch
What would you bring to the General Assembly that other candidates don’t? I bring six years of elected experience, including one term in the N.C. Senate, and six years serving on Asheville commissions before that. As an attorney and nonprofit leader, I also bring over 20 years of public interest policy advocacy at state and local governments. I have a demonstrated history of working across the aisle, successfully tackling complex issues (I-26, clean energy, coal ash), holding bad actors accountable and bringing millions of dollars in state funding to WNC.
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? Affordability is our biggest challenge. While other parts of our region face this same issue, it is most acute in Asheville, where the cost of living is very high and wages are very low. I will continue to advocate for increasing income and lowering expenses — a higher minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, more transit investments, more state funding for affordable housing, inclusionary zoning and property tax relief for longtime homeowners.
What role should state government play in managing the affairs of WNC? State government should not manage the affairs of WNC any more than it manages the affairs of other parts of the state. What we do need is more state investment in WNC, because infrastructure and other projects cost more due to our topography. The flip side is that the state needs to get out of our affairs and let local governments adopt ordinances their residents want on issues like the environment, equity, release of body-cam video, housing and wages.
What one statewide issue will you prioritize on reaching the GA, and what specific actions will you take to drive change on it? My priority is climate change and moving N.C. to clean energy. I was part of the small team of Senate Democrats that helped draft H951, which will take N.C. to carbon neutrality in the electricity sector by 2050. In 2023, the focus will be on greening the transportation sector, and as a longtime transportation advocate and member of the Senate Transportation Committee, I am well-positioned to lead on that issue.
Where, if at all, do you find common ground with members of other political parties? There is a lot of common ground between the parties in Raleigh, and most of the time, we all push the green button to vote yes. We find common ground on all but the big, hot-button issues. I am working with Republicans on several bills, from health care and the environment to policing and the Buncombe County occupancy tax. In the current political context, the only way for Democrats to get anything passed in Raleigh is to work with Republicans.
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