Slates set for March 3 primary

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RACE TIME: After the filing period's end on Dec. 20, the field of candidates for Western North Carolina's 2020 primary elections is now set.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Buncombe, announced Dec. 19 that he won’t seek reelection to the 11th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2013. Before the day was out, three Republican candidates had filed to replace him. And on the filing deadline of Dec. 20, nine more Republicans added their names to the list.

All told, 19 candidates are currently in the running for Meadows’ position in the U.S. House, including five Democrats and one candidate each from the Green and Libertarian parties. But even beyond that contentious federal race, the 2020 election season promises plenty of action for Western North Carolina.

The next-busiest local race on primary ballots for many Buncombe voters is the 10-person contest for three seats on Asheville City Council. One incumbent, Keith Young, will join the nonpartisan race. Departing Council member Brian Haynes decided not to seek reelection, while Council member Julie Mayfield is hoping to replace Sen. Terry Van Duyn (who is running for lieutenant governor) in N.C. Senate District 49.

Prior to 2020, members of Asheville City Council had been selected in odd-numbered years, giving the local race relatively greater prominence. With the presidential and 11th District contests all but certain to capture the lion’s share of voters’ attention this year, previous candidates Kim Roney (who finished fourth in 2017) and Rich Lee (who finished fifth in 2017 and fourth in 2015) may benefit from the name recognition gained during their earlier campaigns. And Kristen Goldsmith, by virtue of having been the first 2020 candidate to announce her run, could see results from that early start. The top six vote-getters will advance to the general election.

In solidly Democratic N.C. Senate District 49, previous district attorney candidate Ben Scales and IT consultant Travis Smith are competing with Mayfield for the Dems’ general election slot. Over in District 48, which includes portions of Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties, the three Democratic candidates — Mills River Council member Brian Caskey, Henderson County legal assistant and first-generation immigrant Cristal Figueroa and Hendersonville native Najah Underwood — face an uphill battle in challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards, who operates seven McDonald’s restaurants in Hendersonville, Brevard and Canton.

With recent redistricting decisions affecting national, state and county-level seats, a number of politicians will find themselves competing against new opponents and trying to connect with a new set of voters. For example, Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a Democrat, will face the winner of the Republican primary in District 2, either incumbent Commissioner Mike Fryar or challenger Anthony Penland.

In Beach-Ferrara’s previous (but now redrawn) District 1, three-time Democratic candidate Nancy Nehls Nelson will vie against Terri Walls for their party’s nomination; the winner will match up with Republican Glenda Weinert, who lost her 2018 bid for the old District 2 seat against Democratic Commissioner Amanda Edwards.

And in District 3, which now covers the southwestern part of the county along with portions of the city of Asheville, the winner of the Democratic primary — Donna Ensley or Parker Sloan — will compete against incumbent Republican Joe Belcher.

One candidate voters in Mountain Xpress‘ distribution area won’t see on their ballots this year is Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-Lincoln, whose 10th U.S. Congressional District no longer includes part of the Asheville area — or even abuts the 11th Congressional District. Under the new maps, the 5th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Watauga, borders the 11th and runs from the Virginia state line on the northern end to the South Carolina state line on the southern end.

U.S. House of Representatives, 11th Congressional District

Republican primary

  • Chuck Archerd
  • Lynda Bennett
  • Matthew Burril
  • Madison Cawthorn
  • Jim Davis
  • Dan Driscoll
  • Steven Fekete Jr.
  • Dillon S. Gentry
  • Wayne King
  • Joey Osborne
  • Vance Patterson
  • Albert Wiley Jr.

Democratic primary

  • Gina Collias
  • Moe Davis
  • Michael O’Shea
  • Phillip Price
  • Steve Woodsmall

Green: Tamara Zwinak

Libertarian: Tracey DeBruhl

N.C. Senate, District 48

Democratic primary

  • Brian Caskey
  • Cristal Figueroa
  • Najah Underwood

Republican: Chuck Edwards (incumbent)

N.C. Senate, District 49

Democratic primary

  • Julie Mayfield
  • Ben Scales
  • Travis Smith

Republican: Bob Penland

N.C. House of Representatives

No primaries will be held for Buncombe County House districts 114, 115 and 116.

House District 114

Democrat: Susan C. Fisher (incumbent)

Republican: Tim Hyatt

Libertarian: Lyndon John Smith

House District 115

Democrat: John Ager (incumbent)

Republican: Mark Crawford

House District 116

Democrat: Brian Turner (incumbent)

Republican: Eric Burns

House District 117

The district currently represented by retiring Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, appears on ballots in Henderson and Transylvania counties (and not on Buncombe ballots). Xpress is covering the contest because the seat also overlaps N.C. Senate District 48 and historically has had an impact on issues of importance to Buncombe.

Republican primary

  • Dennis Justice
  • Tim Moffitt

Democratic primary

  • Danae Aicher
  • Josh Remillard

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners


No primary will be held; incumbent Democratic Chair Brownie Newman will face Republican Commissioner Robert Pressley in the November general election.

District 1

Democratic primary

  • Nancy Nehls Nelson
  • Terri Walls

Republican: Glenda Weinert

District 2

Republican primary

  • Mike Fryar (incumbent)
  • Anthony Penland

Democrat: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (incumbent)

District 3

Democratic primary

  • Donna Ensley
  • Parker Sloan

Republican: Joe Belcher (incumbent)

Asheville City Council

Voters within Asheville city limits can vote for three of the 10 candidates seeking the three available seats on Asheville City Council. The top six vote-getters will advance to the general election, where voters can again select their top three.

Nonpartisan primary

  • Larry Ray Baker
  • Tim Collins
  • Kristen Goldsmith
  • Sandra Kilgore
  • Rich Lee
  • Shane McCarthy
  • Kim Roney
  • Nicole Townsend
  • Sage Turner
  • Keith Young (incumbent)

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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2 thoughts on “Slates set for March 3 primary

  1. Kevin B

    I’m new to the area. Is there a (nonpartisan) group that posts summaries of the candidates, maybe their position papers, so I can figure out the one I prefer?

    • Virginia Daffron

      Kevin B, the grand old tradition of Mountain Xpress voter guides will continue this year. We’ll be shooting to make our guides (with all candidates for local offices on Buncombe County ballots invited to answer the same questions, alongside basic information about each candidate) available online as close as possible to the Thursday, Feb. 13, start of early voting. In print, our guides will appear on the following schedule:

      Feb. 12: U.S. House District 11
      Feb. 19: Asheville City Council
      Feb. 26: N.C. Senate 48 and 49, N.C. House 117 (no primaries held in N.C. House 114, 115 and 116), Buncombe County Board of Commissioners (districts/parties with primary contests)

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