Primed for a fight: Buncombe Commissioners face primary challengers

Early voting is underway as of Thursday, Oct. 20. Find out when and where you can early vote in Buncombe County.

Several Buncombe County Commissioners are facing challengers in the May 6 primary election. Here’s a basic rundown of the candidates and the races, broken down by district.

District 1

Democrats Brownie Newman and Keith Young will fight for a seat in District 1, which encompasses the city of Asheville and leans to the left politically. With high name recognition after serving his first term on the Board of Commissioners and eight years on Asheville City Council, Newman is touting his record of support for new city school buildings, a carbon-reduction plan and LGBT equality measures.

Young, who mounted a failed bid for the Commission two years ago, is hoping to make history by being the first African-American to serve on the board. He argues that Newman has spent too much time focused on environmental issues and wants to prioritize affordable housing and upward mobility.

The winner of the primary will go on to earn the seat in November, as no Republican challengers have filed to run in District 1.

District 2

In District 2, which encompasses Fairview, Black Mountain and Weaverville, Vice Chair Ellen Frost will face a Democratic primary challenge from former Commissioner Carol Peterson. In the 2012 election, Frost beat her by just 38 votes. Before being unseated, Peterson had served for eight years on the Commission. She’s remained politically active, serving on a number of other boards, including the Asheville Regional Airport Authority.

After her first year on the Commission, Frost is touting her record of support for economic development, new school buildings and environmental initiatives. 

The primary winner will go on to face Republican Christina Merrill in the Nov. 4 general election. Merrill lost her 2012 bid against Frost by only 18 votes; Merrill subsequently mounted an unsuccessful legal effort to challenge the results and discount many provisional ballots cast by left-leaning residents of Warren Wilson College. In the months since, she has criticized commissioners’ moves to raise property taxes and give private companies economic incentive grants.

As in 2012, the District 2 winner will determine which party controls a majority of the board’s seats.

District 3

In District 3, which stretches from Arden to Sandy Mush and encompasses the most conservative area of the county, two GOP candidates are challenging Republican incumbent David King.

Lewis Clay was recruited to run by the Asheville Tea Party, which has been critical of King’s support for a county budget last year that included a tax increase. But Clay has been embroiled in controversy after an anonymous Twitter account revealed that his Facebook page included likes for pages with sexual content.

The other GOP challenger, Miranda DeBruhl, is also running to King’s right. In her campaign announcement, the political newcomer criticized him for his budget vote and for voting “with the liberals more often than not.”

In his first term, King has emphasized that his votes are guided by pragmatism over politics. He serves on the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County and is touting his record of supporting businesses and new schools.

No Democrats are running in District 3, so the GOP primary winner will go on to earn the seat in November.

Confused about what district you live in and where your polling place is? Buncombe County provides a helpful tool: Find your voting location here.

March 10 UPDATE: According to the Asheville Tea Party, Lewis Clay is dropping out of the District 3 GOP primary race. Here’s an excerpt from the Asheville Tea Party announcement:

We support Mr. Clay’s decision to do what is right for him and his family.  However, to say that we are concerned about the events that led to his departure would be an understatement.  It is apparent to many that the Asheville Citizen-Times led a deliberate and persistent attack on Mr. Clay that was meant to embarrass him and his family in a purposeful attempt to damage his campaign. …  It is abundantly clear that the AC-T is not in the business of informing the public, but rather providing cover for business as usual, and when necessary, destroying the candidacies of people who threaten to impede the systemic corruption that goes on in Buncombe County. … ATPAC remains undeterred in its mission to support candidates who can best advance the principles of fiscal responsibility and limited government.



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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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