Stirring the local political pot

A 2014 meeting of the Buncombe County Commissioners. Photo by Alicia Funderburk

Over the last few weeks, it seems as though a number of Asheville and Buncombe politicians are moving pieces in a political puzzle. From a retirement to a withdrawal to bids to switch offices or positions — along with 15 candidates running for Asheville City Council, a lot is happening these days in local politics.

Holly Jones runs for lieutenant governor

Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones announced her candidacy for lieutenant governor last Wednesday morning, Aug. 12.

Holly Jones
Holly Jones

“As many of you know, I’ve spent 14 years serving this wonderful community as an elected official — what an honor, what a privilege to represent these citizens,” Jones said during a packed press conference later that day. “I would have been content to continue to serve this wonderful community, except for what Republicans are doing to our state.”

The room erupted in applause, and when it settled down, Jones continued: “They’re doing long-term damage, and we’ve seen it firsthand. In 2011, our community was ground zero for the Legislature’s assault on local government. They meddled in our airport business; they redistricted our county. One year, they created a recreational authority, and the next year they dissolved it. They even tried to seize our multimillion-dollar water system.

“It’s the heavy hand of big government, from the party that says they’re about small government. It’s hypocrisy, and it’s harmful.”

Jones went on to say the problems don’t stop in Buncombe County. Other counties and municipalities around the state are feeling these same pressures, she said, “and they’ve done it against the wishes of local officials and without the support of the citizens who are affected by their actions.

“These Republicans are more interested in power than they are in governing,” she continued. “They’ve caused uncertainty and instability just because they can. And as one Republican legislator stated, and I quote, ‘Municipalities and cities are subdivisions of a state, and a state can play with their property if they feel like it.’”

Growing up in North Carolina, Jones said, “I know the value of public education. I know the value because of the opportunities they afforded me. And as a mother of a teenager, it makes me angry and dismayed that she and her peers may not have the same opportunities that I did because of these republican legislators.

“For most of my life, North Carolina was a leader in the South,” Jones explained. “I was proud of that. The GOP has made us a laughing stock and left the rest of the country wondering, ‘What happened to North Carolina?’ … While the rest of the Southern states were taking down Confederate flags, our Legislature was protecting Confederate monuments.”

Jones ended her speech by saying North Carolina needs to “get back on the right track.”

Gantt retires, Newman to run for chair

David Gantt, Chair,  Buncombe County Board of Commissioners
David Gantt

In late July, long-serving Buncombe County Commissioner and Chairman David Gantt notified the public that he would not seek re-election at the end of his term in late 2016.

“We’ve done some things that are mighty good,” Gantt said of the county’s accomplishments in the last 20 years. “I say ‘we’ because one commissioner can’t do a thing.”

Two weeks later, fellow Commissioner Brownie Newman announced his intention to run to fill Gantt’s spot as chair. Newman was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2012 after serving two terms on City Council.

Photo by Kelly Giarrocco
Brownie Newman. Photo by Kelly Giarrocco

“I want to let my friends and community know that I plan to run for county commission chair in 2016,” Newman wrote on his Facebook page. “I truly enjoy serving on the commission and have found it to be a place where we can make a difference.

“During the time I have served,” he continues, “we have made major new investments to rebuild our public schools. We are creating a Family Justice Center to confront domestic violence. We have committed to reduce the county’s carbon footprint and are taking immediate steps to move down that path. We rewrote our personnel policies to assure all our public employees are treated equally, regardless of who they love. Our land conservation initiative has permanently protected thousands of acres of family farmland and natural areas.”

As chair, “I want to build on these successful initiatives and take on the big challenges facing our community,” he says. “Are people who work full-time (along with senior citizens and people with disabilities) going to be able to afford to live here? Are we going to protect the natural beauty and ecological integrity of our mountains, even as the community grows?”

— Able Allen contributed to this report

Bothwell announces goal of switching from Council to Commission

With Gantt leaving and Jones running for state office, there will be a couple vacancies in 2016 for the county Board.

Shortly after Jones announced her intent to run for lieutenant governor, City Councilman Cecil Bothwell announced his intention of running for the Board.

Asheville City Council election interview: Cecil Bothwell-attachment0
Cecil Bothwell.

Bothwell, now in his second term on the Asheville City Council, will run for a District 1 position, the district currently represented by both Jones and Newman. District 1 covers all of Asheville and a few nearby outlying areas.

“I intend to bring the same environmental awareness and civic concern to service on our county commission that I have delivered for my constituents for the past six years,” Bothwell writes in a press release.

Bothwell has been named the Best Local Politician in the Mountain Xpress reader poll every year since he was first elected and has been tapped Best Local Hero in five of those polls — though, this year (and in 2013), he also placed third as Best Local Villain. “He challenged Rep. Heath Shuler in the 2012 Democratic Party primary and began his political career in the 2008 Buncombe Commission race, when he lost to 20-year incumbent Bill Stanley by 0.8 percent of the ballots cast,” the release reads.

“A 35-year resident of Buncombe County,” the release adds, “Bothwell is best known for his advocacy of sustainable energy solutions, defense of civil liberties, and advocacy for forward-looking transportation and transit planning.”

If Bothwell wins a seat on the county Board, it will open up yet another position on City Council in 2017.

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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7 thoughts on “Stirring the local political pot

  1. Andrew

    What a circus of clowns. But, with the exception of Jones, they will likely be elected. Asheville and now Buncombe County have become a mecca for the most radical, secular progressive types from all over the country. Wonder why local taxes and regulations are so high and affordable housing so low? Look at the people you’ve allowed to take over your city and county.

    • Jim

      Crony capitalism with the brewers and the non profits means a huge pool of voters who need them and vice versa. It won’t change until people with balls who are stuck with the bill get feed to death over things like their trash, WHICH PROPERTY TAXES SHOULD PAY, and literally dump their garbage on the steps of city hall. And it’s coming.

      • SumDude

        Remind me what capitalism and non-profits have in common? By definition, they are polar opposites.

  2. Henry

    Thank goodness a well off white person from expensive Asheville is going to challenge Linda Coleman for Lt. Gov.

    What’s Linda Coleman ever done besides trying to be the first statewide elected minority, being a former legislator, nearly beating Dan Forest (49.8 percent of the vote), growing up in North Carolina’s public schools, being a teacher in those same public schools and a staunch advocate for education?

    Good thing we have Holly to show us the way!

    • Jim

      LOL, that’s the problem. A teacher has ZERO private sector experience. Purdue was a teacher and what did she accomplish? Pass a smoking ban in private businesses. LOL, people in government are insulated and joke. Clinton is the prime example of how incompetent and moronic people get who spend their entire lives in it. Anyone who will take high security emails and place them in private servers located in a bathroom with no realization that it’s stupid is what’s wrong with people and the government. Jones is also another buffoon so this is by no way an endorsement for her either.

      And stop being a racist. You should have enough intellect to realize vitriol leads to eras akin to 1930’s Germany and the eventual gassing of 6 million people simply because they were Jews. But of course left wing people seem to forget that.

    • NFB

      Had Linda Coleman won in 2102 she would NOT have been the first statewide elected minority. Ralph Campbell became the first (since reconstruction) in 1992.

  3. Unaffiliated Voter

    when you consider that Holly Jones works for the YWCA national, her candidacy is antithetical to her professional role in the
    community…funny how democrats will eat their own (Linda Coleman, minority) when their own political appetite becomes
    overwhelming! the soft bigotry of subtle racism …

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