Nicole Townsend withdraws from Asheville City Council race

Nicole Townsend
SHIFTING HER GAZE: Nicole Townsend cited both COVID-19 and 'the current state of Asheville' as reasons for dropping out of the City Council race. Photo courtesy of Townsend

In a message emailed to supporters and shared on the Asheville Politics Facebook group Aug. 22, community organizer Nicole Townsend announced that she would be dropping out of the race for Asheville City Council. The candidate had finished fifth among a 10-person field in the March primaries, qualifying for the six-way general race to elect three Council members on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Although Townsend’s campaign did not respond to an Xpress request for comment about the decision, her message cited the impact of COVID-19 on her family’s health and finances as one reason for withdrawing. She also listed “the current state of Asheville and the role [she] would play in the continual perpetuation of systemic harm” were she elected to Council.

The Black activist has long criticized the city’s approach to policing and equity concerns. In 2019, Townsend received a $200,000 Tzedek Brilliance Award from the Asheville-based Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund in recognition of her efforts for social change; in 2017, she was arrested for attempting to remove a downtown monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, one of two Confederate monuments that have since been removed by order of the city and Buncombe County in response to recent protests for racial justice.

Townsend, who is not registered with any political party, also criticized the local Democratic establishment for what she characterized as strategic interference in the nonpartisan Council race. “I witnessed our local Democratic Party exclude independent candidates from public candidate meet and greets and forums, only to praise the Democrats who spewed similar platform pillars as those who didn’t have the correct letter next to their name,” she wrote. “This behavior serves no one.”

“The Buncombe Democratic Party supports and promotes Democratic candidates for office on a year-round basis, including in municipal and county races that are nonpartisan on the ballot,” wrote Jeff Rose, chair of the Buncombe County Democratic Party, in response to an Xpress request for comment.

The withdrawal announcement had not been shared on either the Facebook or Twitter pages for the Townsend campaign as of press time. However, fellow Council candidate and activist Kim Roney, whose campaign had partnered closely with Townsend, posted a Facebook response to Townsend’s decision in the evening of Aug. 24.

“Thank you for shifting the narrative in our city through your work and in this campaign for Asheville City Council. I believe in, am inspired by and will continue to support your work and our community,” Roney wrote. “I’m deeply saddened not to be running the last leg of this race with my friend.”

Roney, who finished third in the March primary, now shares the general election field with four other candidates: real estate broker Sandra Kilgore, financial adviser Rich Lee, French Broad Food Co-op project manager Sage Turner and Council incumbent Keith Young.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. on Aug. 26 to include comment from Jeff Rose.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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