WNC General Election 2020 live coverage

Officials return voting equipment to the Buncombe County Election Services warehouse in downtown Asheville.
ELECTION SECURITY: Officials return voting equipment to the Buncombe County Election Services warehouse in downtown Asheville. Photo by Laura Hackett

(10:23 p.m.) With that, the Mountain Xpress news team is calling it a night. Full unofficial election results for Buncombe County are available on the N.C. State Board of Elections website. Stay safe, WNC, and be on the lookout for a summary of key takeaways tomorrow. — Daniel Walton

(10:16 p.m.) The future of Asheville City Council is female: With the election of Sandra Kilgore, Sage Turner and Kim Roney, the seven-member body will now be entirely run by women.

Kim Roney at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center
GRABBING ATTENTION: Asheville City Council candidate Kim Roney, who finished third in unofficial results, used an extendable tool to hand out flyers while maintaining social distancing from voters at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center on Election Day. Photo by Laura Hackett

“I’m extremely excited to serve with an all-female Council,” says Mayor Esther Manheimer. “I’ve never done that before — I don’t even know if there are any other all-female Councils in similar-sized North Carolina cities — and I’m excited to get to work.”

After a competitive race and a long day of campaigning, Kim Roney told Xpress she is “tired but grateful” for all of the work put in by her supporters. As the only unaffiliated candidate running for City Council, she says she’s excited to continue conversations around climate change and equity. But tonight’s excitement is just the first step, she says.

“There are going to be lots of people who are feeling lost tonight. Under the system we currently have set up it’s winner-take-all, and everyone else is left feeling like a loser. But I want all of our neighbors to know that I will work to bring everyone to the table together to engage around these issues. It’s not going to be an every-other-Tuesday thing, we’ll make sure the community is involved in ongoing conversations.”

And Sandra Kilgore, who jumped from a sixth-place finish in the March primary to a first-place outcome in the general election, is feeling ecstatic. “It’s just amazing to come from the very bottom to the very top,” she says. “It’s a great night.” — Molly Horak

(10:07 p.m.) With all precincts reporting unofficial results, Brownie Newman is all but certain to lead a seven-member Buncombe County Board of Commissioners consisting of six Democrats and one Republican. Speaking with Xpress after the votes came in, the Democratic chair said the commanding majority would allow the board to pursue policies “that represent the goals and values of the community.”

Newman named renewable energy, affordable housing and land use as three key areas for county action once Terri Wells, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Parker Sloan are sworn in for the board’s next iteration in December. He said officials would commit to “open, transparent methods” of business to ensure that the voices of Republicans are heard.

Republican Robert Pressley, who appears to have lost his bid to unseat Newman with just over 42% of the vote, will remain on the board for at least two years in his capacity as commissioner for District 3. He did not immediately respond to an Xpress request for comment on the election results. — Daniel Walton

(10:00 p.m.) Buncombe County reported a record turnout of 77.71% of registered voters in the 2020 election. According to a county press release, “Voters turned out in a steady stream today, no incident reports were filed, and we are grateful to the more than 800 election workers for their tireless work to ensure that everyone who came out in person or by mail was able to exercise their right to vote.” — Buncombe County Government information

(9:56 p.m.) Julie Mayfield is prepared to serve in the N.C. Senate: Not too long ago, she purchased a 2017 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. The miles she’ll be driving between Raleigh and Asheville will thus have a much-reduced carbon impact, and she plans to make good use of the drive time for phone calls.

Lillian Govus at Buncombe County Election Services
EARLY BIRD, NIGHT OWL: Lillian Govus, director of communications for Buncombe County, stands in front of a busy scene as polling officials return equipment to a warehouse on Coxe Ave. in downtown Asheville. She says she’s been awake and working since 5 a.m. Photo by Laura Hackett

With all precincts reporting, Mayfield has turned in a commanding victory, earning nearly 63% of the vote over first-time Republican candidate Bob Penland.

What Mayfield will tackle first, and what she and fellow Democratic state legislators will be positioned to do, will depend on whether Democrats can take control of either the state Senate or House, she says. Should both bodies and the governorship be in Democratic hands, Mayfield’s wish list includes Medicaid expansion, independent redistricting and education funding. “Climate change legislation is huge for me,” says the current Asheville City Council member, who’s also co-director of environmental nonprofit MountainTrue.

She’s also excited about the prospect of “getting the legislature back to a place where local governments have an easier time getting permission from Raleigh to do local bills that impact that jurisdiction only.”

Asked about some of the city issues she will miss following, Mayfield cites the process to determine the future of the Vance Monument, as well as action toward reparations for Black city residents and “reimagining” policing. Those initiatives, she says, are “exciting, potentially groundbreaking stuff.”

One important Asheville issue Mayfield won’t be leaving is the future of the city’s hotel and tourism industry. “I’ve been working for the past five years to be in a position to make changes to [Buncombe County’s tax on lodging],” she says.

Before COVID-19 hit, the industry and legislators were “very close” to making changes to the formula that controls how lodging tax revenues can be used, Mayfield claims. She plans to introduce legislation to put more of the tax toward local needs, as well as expand the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board to include representatives from the short-term rental industry and other tourism-related fields. — Virginia Daffron

(9:35 p.m.) Sandra Kilgore, who holds first place in the Asheville City Council race with unofficial results complete, did not stop smiling as she spoke to the virtual crowd at the Buncombe County Democratic Party watch event. In the March primaries, Kilgore came in sixth; tonight, she says she’s amazed at what is happening.

Grind Coffee Shop watch party
ON THE GRIND: From left, co-owners of Grind Coffee Shop Gene Ettison and J Hackett watch the election results with Anthony Lynch and Asheville City Council member Sheneika Smith. Photo by Laura Hackett

“I didn’t expect to be where I am. I’d like the continued support moving on to address the issues in the community. We can keep making change in the community,” Kilgore says. As she spoke, her son, John Dawson, popped into the frame, giving his mom two thumbs up.

Asked to reflect on statewide judicial races, party chair Jeff Rose says many of the contests will be incredibly close for days to come.

Attendees were then invited to share stories from the polls today. Lindsey Prather spent the day at a polling site in Enka, where she provided four first-time voters assistance as they cast their very first ballots.

And Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, who was knocking on doors at Aston Towers earlier today despite running unopposed in his own reelection bid, said he saw many residents decide to go to the polls after a reminder to vote. “It inspired me,” he said. “They crushed it, and it gave me hope that we may have bumped up numbers in some of the areas we weren’t expecting.” — Molly Horak

(9:19 p.m.) The Buncombe County Democratic Party is currently hosting a virtual watch party via Zoom. On the line are party chair Jeff Rose and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who is running to retain her seat representing District 2 on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

Buncombe County Democratic Party virtual watch party
LITTLE BOXES: Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, incumbent representative of District 2 on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, thanks her supporters during the Buncombe County Democratic Party’s virtual watch party. Screen capture courtesy of the BCDP

“North Carolina has turned out,” Rose tells the 35 attendees. “One thing we’ve talked about a lot, since the district split, is the county commission race. With what we’re seeing right now, we can confidently say there will be a 6-1 split. What an exciting night for us locally to see wins with all of the amazing candidates we have.”

(The only remaining Republican on the board will be Robert Pressley, whose seat was not up for reelection. Pressley is on track to lose his bid for the board’s chair position against incumbent Democrat Brownie Newman.)

Talking from her kitchen after “wolfing down some leftovers,” Beach-Ferrera thanked everyone on the call. “Our team was out every day of early voting and all across District 2 today, and every day we were out, at least two Buncombe Dems were out staffing tables. That level of commitment and passion, and the civility and warmth that you greeted neighbors [with], made me really proud of our community and party.” — Molly Horak

(9:11 p.m.) The closest race in Buncombe County is shaping up to be that for the Board of Education’s Owen District. With all but two precincts reporting, incumbent Peggy Buchanan is leading a three-way race at 35.62% of the vote. Trailing her is Linda Tatsapaugh, who had earned the endorsements of the Buncombe County Association of Educators and Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield, with 35.43%. Everett D. Pittillo currently holds 28.33% of the vote.

According to state election law, recounts may be requested “if the difference between the votes for the requester and the winning candidate is less than or equal to 1% of the total votes cast in the election.” For Buchanan and Tatsapaugh, that margin would be 944 votes; they are currently separated by just 181. — Daniel Walton

(8:58 p.m.) In the race for N.C. Senate District 48, Republican incumbent Chuck Edwards is leading Democratic challenger Brian Caskey with 58.12% of the vote, with 32% of precincts reporting (and all early/mail-in votes included). Democrat Julie Mayfield comfortably leads in Senate District 49 with nearly 63% of the vote. The incumbent senator in that district, Terry Van Duyn, did not run for reelection; she unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor instead. Mayfield’s opponent is Republican Bob Penland. — Virginia Daffron

(8:51 p.m.) The race for Asheville City Council is also tight. Sandra Kilgore, Sage Turner and Kim Roney currently hold the top three spots. Just 6,000 votes separate Kilgore from Rich Lee, who is currently in fifth place. Nicole Townsend, who dropped out of the race in August, has netted 10% of the vote. Incumbent Keith Young, currently in fourth place, would not retain his seat if the results were to remain unchanged. — Molly Horak

Keith Young at Shiloh Community Center
SIGNIFIED AND SIGNIFIER: Incumbent Asheville City Council member Keith Young stands with a campaign sign at the Shiloh Community Center. Photo by Molly Horak

(8:42 p.m.) It’s a moving target, but with 18.44% of precincts reporting — and all early voting and mail-in ballots counted — early numbers in the race for the 11th Congressional District representing Western North Carolina look close. Republican Madison Cawthorn has a slight edge over Democrat Moe Davis with 52.25% and 44.78% of the vote respectively. — Virginia Daffron

(8:40 p.m.) The first wave of results for Buncombe County is in, and that wave is blue.

With all early voting and mail-in ballots counted, all Buncombe-specific races appeared to be comfortably in the hands of Democratic candidates. Brownie Newman, incumbent chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, was up nearly 19 percentage points over Republican challenger Robert Pressley, who currently serves as a board member in District 3.

Each of the three district races for board seats also showed wide Democratic margins. Terri Wells, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Parker Sloan all held leads of over 20 percentage points against respective Republican rivals Glenda Weinert, Anthony Penland and Joe Belcher. And although the race is technically nonpartisan, Democrat Gary Higgins held over 75% of the vote against unaffiliated challenger Alan Ditmore. — Daniel Walton

(8:37 p.m.) Reached at home as he anticipated election results, state Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, said he was “hoping for a win tonight” and seemed to be confident of achieving one, both on his own behalf and for other county Democrats, including Reps. Susan Fisher and John Ager and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners incumbent Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and candidates Parker Sloan and Terri Wells. “I think we’ll see some big gains in the county,” Turner said. “I think the redrawing of the districts will play a big role in that.”

Thank a Veteran Vote sign near Vance Monument
CIVIC DUTY: A man holds a sign near the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville urging citizens to exercise their hard-won freedoms. Photo by Laura Hackett

Even as he celebrated the prospect of Democratic wins, however, Turner sounded a cautionary note for the future. If representation shifts from outlying areas of the county closer to the city center, he sees the potential for more rural residents to feel disenfranchised, leading to “grievance, resentment, disengagement.”

The fix, Turner believes, could be decoupling the district lines that set representation on the county board from those that determine state legislative posts. “I think there is value in having geographical representation in addition to ideological representation,” Turner said.

While polling suggests that the chances of North Carolina Democrats retaking control of the Senate are higher than those for a similar outcome in the House of Representatives, Turner allowed himself to contemplate what being in the majority party could mean for him. Following in the footsteps of recently retired Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, Turner said he would like to serve as a full appropriations chair and also as an appropriations chair for agriculture, natural and economic resources.

But whichever party holds power in the N.C. General Assembly, Turner said his top priorities for the next session include instituting nonpartisan redistricting, expanding access to Medicaid and reforming social safety net programs including unemployment benefits, nutrition assistance and support for small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Looking outside his own race, Turner called the “Moe and Madison” race for the 11th Congressional District seat representing Western North Carolina “crazy,” noting that, if elected, 25-year-old Republican Madison Cawthorn could potentially serve for “50 or 60 years” in the role. While Democrat Moe Davis had run a strong campaign, Turner said, it would take a “perfect storm” for him to win the Republican-leaning district. — Virginia Daffron

(8:25 p.m.) As Western North Carolina awaited results from the competitive U.S. House District 11 race, candidates Madison Cawthorn and Moe Davis both tried to get in a final word about their opponents. Around 2 p.m., Republican Cawthorn visited the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden, where he told Xpress he was encouraged by what he saw at district polling sites.

Madison Cawthorn at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden on Election Day
ROLLING IN: Madison Cawthorn visited the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden on Election Day around 2:30 p.m. Photo by Molly Horak

“I feel strong about our ground game,” Cawthorn said. “We’re organized and we have a very robust and sophisticated campaign. My opponent is really great at, you know, the speaking element, but when it comes to the organization, the apparatus, that’s what’s going to make the difference.”

Two hours later, Democrat Davis criticized the Cawthorn campaign’s approach to campaigning during the pandemic. “My opponent just ignored [COVID-19] and continued to have mega-spreader events,” Davis said at the Shiloh Community Center. “It seems to me, if you want to be in public office, you shouldn’t put the public at risk to get there.” — Molly Horak

(8:14 p.m.) If Election Day were a candidate in North Carolina, it would’ve already lost by a landslide. According to the nonprofit Civitas Institute VoteTracker, over 4.55 million North Carolinians cast their ballots through the end of early voting on Oct. 31 — nearly 62% of the state’s 7.34 million registered voters.

Moe Davis at Shiloh Community Center
MASKED MAN: Democratic U.S. House candidate Moe Davis made a stop at Shiloh Community Center in Asheville around 4 p.m. on Election Day. Photo by Molly Horak

The trend is even stronger in Buncombe County, where over 140,000 (about 68%) of nearly 207,000 registered voters had already voted as of Oct. 31. Roughly 106,000 of those Buncombe residents voted at in-person locations, while more than 34,000 voted by mail.

Democrats led the county’s early turnout, with nearly 58,000 (about 75% of all registered party members) having cast ballots. Unaffiliated voter turnout was more than 50,000 (63%), while just over 31,000 Republicans (66% of registered members) voted early.

Because North Carolina processes most early votes before polls close, the N.C. State Board of Elections expects those results to be available on its website by 9 p.m. “The results reported by the end of election night will include 97% or more of all ballots cast in North Carolina in the 2020 general election,” according to a board press release. — Daniel Walton

(8:00 p.m.) One place where Buncombe County’s turnout has broken records is Precinct 1.1, centered on the Stephens-Lee Community Center in Asheville’s East End neighborhood. Poll watchers reported at 5:30 p.m. that 70% of the precinct has voted, up from 62.5% in 2016.

Vanessa White outside of Stephens-Lee Recreation Center
TURNING IT OUT: Vanessa White stands outside of Stephens-Lee Recreation Center on Election Day. White says she’s devoted much of her free time to canvassing for the Democratic Party and is a fervent supporter of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Photo by Laura Hackett

Vanessa White, a retired government employee who has canvassed for Democrats since 2016, said she’s been phone banking and showing up at early voting for the last few weeks to increase those numbers. She said she’s been able to “get through” to quite a few folks.

“We need somebody that cares, and I feel like [Democratic presidential nominee] Joe Biden and [vice presidential nominee] Kamala Harris will do something about the coronavirus and that they’ll believe in science, not politics,” White said. “Because these are people’s lives. Our children are being affected.”

“Today, my state of mind is going crazy,” White continued. “I refuse to watch the news. I’m going to wait until all is said and done. I’m prepared to be waiting for the presidential election for a few days. It’s been crazy, though. What I love the most is seeing so many young people out here. There’s been a lot of young people out here, geared up and ready to go.” — Laura Hackett

(7:45 p.m.) Those driving by Asheville City Council candidate Rich Lee’s home in Oakley were greeted by a simple message: VOTE, cut out in large capital letters and stuck into his yard. Speaking with Xpress from his front porch, Lee said he was encouraged by the record turnout in Buncombe County.

Rich Lee with VOTE sign
CAN YOU READ THE SIGN? Asheville City Council candidate Rich Lee stands with a handmade message in front of his East Asheville home. Photo by Laura Hackett

While COVID-19 posed a new challenge to the three-time Council hopeful, Lee said he and his volunteers had made the best of the situation. “We found ways to reach people with door hangers and other socially distant strategies, and a line of really good endorsements that I’m really proud of, like the Asheville firefighters, Sierra Club, teachers unions and labor unions,” he said.

Lee also said the pandemic had made his message of economic diversification more relevant to Asheville voters. “They’re seeing that the tourism economy really shut down hard when things shut down in March, and there’s reason to think we might be in for another shutdown as we go into the colder months,” he explained. “I think people are seeing more directly some sectors of the economy, like technology and finance, have ridden through the pandemic pretty smoothly and others are getting hammered, so it’s an argument for a more diverse array of jobs and getting more people up to living wages.” — Laura Hackett

(7:25 p.m.) Buncombe County polls are scheduled to close at 7:30 p.m., but results won’t be released until at least 8:15 p.m. That’s because of an extension at one polling place in Sampson County ordered earlier today by the N.C. State Board of Elections. Nine other polling places have also had their voting times extended due to interruptions or technical difficulties; none are located in Western North Carolina.

Election Day buskers at the Vance Monument
DRUMMING UP SUPPORT: Local buskers perform in front of the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville to get folks excited about voting. Photo by Laura Hackett

The most hotly anticipated results from WNC, as is true across the country, are for the presidential race between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden. But local voters are being asked to choose their representatives in a host of races at the city, county and state levels as well.

The Mountain Xpress voter guide lays out the landscape for Buncombe County. Voters in Asheville will pick three candidates from a field of five to fill out City Council. Candidates for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, as well as the state House and Senate, are all competing under new district lines developed by the General Assembly last year. The county Board of Education and Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors also have seats up for election.

And Buncombe voters, along with those in 16 other WNC counties, will choose a new congressional representative for U.S. House District 11. The race has drawn millions in campaign donations for Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis; polls indicate a competitive race in a district previously dominated by Republican Mark Meadows, who resigned his post in March to become White House chief of staff. Also in the mix are Libertarian Tracey DeBruhl and Green Party candidate Tamara Zwinak. — Daniel Walton

(7:10 p.m.) Crowds were steady throughout the morning at T.C. Roberson High School in South Asheville. On the scene was City Council candidate Rich Lee’s mom, Sandy Lee, who was feeling excited and nervous. “He can do so much for Asheville,” she says. “If he’s not on Council, he’s serving on every city committee. He cares so much.”

Brad Barger, Trump supporter
THUMBS UP: Brad Barger, left, volunteered at an election for the first time this year on behalf of President Donald Trump. Photo by Molly Horak

First-time volunteer Brad Barger of Mills River spent the afternoon volunteering for the Trump campaign at T.C. Roberson High School. In 2016, he voted for the president; in 2008, he supported Democrat Barack Obama. His priorities this election cycle are taxes and pro-life policies, he says, but he’s also worried that political differences on social media platforms will drive voters apart.

“I’m convicted in my conservative beliefs, but having conversations and civil debates with people who don’t agree with you is how you get to know people,” Barger says. It’s really hard to do that right now. In the past, people were able to agree on at least some smaller issue, but I really don’t see common ground anymore. After this election, I really hope we can find that again.” — Molly Horak

(6:54 p.m.) Law enforcement organizations throughout Western North Carolina, including the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office and Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, took part in tabletop planning efforts in preparation for potential civil unrest on Election Day and beyond. Thankfully, they haven’t yet had to put any of those plans into practice.

Corinne Duncan at Nov. 2 press conference
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON: Corinne Duncan, Buncombe County’s election services director, reports on a smooth voting process at a Nov. 2 press conference. Photo by Daniel Walton

As of 4 p.m., chief election judges in Buncombe County had reported no incidents of Election Day voter intimidation or suppression, according to a county press release. Similarly, no incidents were reported during the early voting period from Oct. 15-31.

Corinne Duncan, Buncombe’s election services director, noted during a Nov. 1 press conference that county officials had been made aware of “some people with open carry” outside the Weaverville Town Hall during early voting on Oct. 30. However, she said those with weapons were following all applicable laws and stood outside the 50-foot electioneering buffer zone.

While the National Guard has been placed on standby in several states in anticipation of potential unrest, according to Military Times, North Carolina is not among them. And Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, as well as Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman, both confirmed that they have not requested Guard support. — Daniel Walton

(6:30 p.m.) Jan Hines, a volunteer with the Sierra Club stationed at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden, estimated that over half of the precinct’s voters had voted early or absentee. As of 2 p.m., she said she hadn’t seen any harassment of voters or poll workers.

Richard Bowman at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden
COME ON IN: Chief judge Richard Bowman welcomes voters at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden. Photo by Molly Horak

Elsa Enstrom and Victoria Estes, two vote protection volunteers with Democracy NC, said voting had been peaceful throughout the day. Foot traffic was steady, they said, and volunteers from both parties and advocacy groups were cooperating well. “Overall, it’s been very amicable,” Estes said.

Van Reid, a volunteer for Republican Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair candidate Robert Pressley, was feeling enthusiastic. Pressley stopped by the site earlier in the morning and told voters he was feeling good about his chances, Reid said.

Brian Prosser, a volunteer for Republican U.S. House District 11 candidate Madison Cawthorn, said he noticed more conservative voters approaching his table for sample ballots in the first hour that polls were open. As the morning wore on, he said voters appeared to be taking sample ballots from both Democrat and Republican representatives, potentially indicative of higher undecided turnout.

Inside the church, operations were running smoothly, said chief judge Richard Bowman. Roughly a dozen people had lined up when polls opened at 7:30 a.m., he said. As a precaution, he asked the Buncombe County Board of Elections to send over two more voting booths.

COVID-19 safety precautions, such as sanitizing all surfaces between voters, has not been a problem, Bowman continued. A few people who voted early came in to check the status of their ballots, he says, but otherwise, everything has gone according to plan. As of 4 p.m., 300 ballots had been cast at the site. — Molly Horak

(6:15 p.m.) Also present at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center earlier today was Kim Roney, the only unaffiliated candidate in the Asheville City Council race. Observing the short lines at the polling place, as well as at her previous stops at Oakley and T.C. Roberson High School, she thanked voters who had cast ballots by mail or during early voting for making Election Day more accessible.

Joe Belcher at Grant Center
TAKE A CARD: Joe Belcher, a Republican incumbent on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, hands out campaign materials outside of the Grant Center in Asheville’s Southside community. Photo by Laura Hackett

“No matter what happens today, we have a lot of work to do tomorrow,” Roney continued. “There’s been a lot of divisiveness, and we are going to need to have some more healing conversations as a community.”

Republican Joe Belcher, running for reelection to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, was campaigning outside the Grant Center as well. Despite last year’s changes to commission district lines, which added more of Asheville’s heavily Democratic urban core to Belcher’s constituents, the incumbent felt confident about his chances.

“I’ve worked hard for eight years. I think people will recognize that,” Belcher said. “I’m not being presumptuous about anything, but I think that people recognize that. I still love it, so I want to keep doing it.”

Asked who else he was supporting, Belcher flagged fellow Republican Robert Pressley, who is running against incumbent Democrat Brownie Newman for the county board’s chair seat. Belcher said Pressley “has a great heart for working with early childhood education in general. He’s been bipartisan in that and working to do the best in the community, and it’s been an honor to serve with him.” — Laura Hackett

(6:00 p.m.) According to an Oct. 30 press release, retired Rep. Charles H. Taylor has already made his choice in the election for his former N.C. District 11 House seat. The Republican voted for fellow party member Madison Cawthorn, citing Cawthorn’s promises to “keep the Veterans Administration hospital strong, bring back emphasis on broadband and work to build more jobs in every county in the 11th District.”

Madison Cawthorn at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden
GO TEAM: Madison Cawthorn poses with campaign volunteers on Election Day at the Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden. Photo by Molly Horak

Taylor, who served from 1991 to 2007, was Western North Carolina’s longest-serving Republican representative. He was defeated by Democrat Heath Shuler in the 2006 election under district lines similar to those currently in place; Shuler is backing Democrat Joe Biden for president but hasn’t made an endorsement in the N.C. 11 race.

(Fun factoid for the incorrigible wonks among our readers: Taylor can’t claim to be WNC’s longest-serving House member overall because of Henry W. Connor. Connor represented the 11th District from 1821 to 1841 under the Democratic-Republican, Jacksonian and Democratic parties.) — Daniel Walton

(5:45 p.m.) Moe Davis, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House District 11 seat vacated by Republican Mark Meadows, stopped by the Shiloh Community Center around 4 p.m. After earlier stops in Waynesville, Mars Hill, Sylva and Brevard, he spent 20 minutes talking with voters and volunteers. “The end is finally in sight,” he said.

“On primary day in March, it was pouring rain. At least today, the weather has cooperated,” Davis added with a laugh.

High turnout, especially among younger voters, was making Davis “cautiously optimistic” in the final hours of the race. “We’ve had over 1,000 volunteers and over 40,000 donations. That’s what’s made it all possible — especially with the challenges of COVID-19,” he said. According to data from voting analytics firm TargetSmart, early vote turnout among North Carolina voters ages 18-39 was 10.6% higher in 2020 than in 2016.

Keith Young, the only incumbent running for Asheville City Council, also dropped the “cautiously optimistic” buzzword when he arrived at the Shiloh site a few minutes later. He told Xpress he’s more worried about the presidential matchup than his own odds. “I’ve probably worked more on the [Democratic nominee Joe] Biden campaign than I have on my own race,” he said.

Also on site were John Dawson, son of City Council candidate Sandra Kilgore, and Lindsay Furst, wife of City Council candidate Rich Lee. Neither said they had a sense of how the night would play out, but they joked that in the middle of a very close race, the fact that they could next to each other and encourage people to vote was encouraging.

Observers and poll greeters at Shiloh said that things had been going smoothly all day. Around 4:45 p.m., Ken Hawkins, the site’s chief judge, informed volunteers that he had received complaints about their presence blocking voters from entering the parking lot and the building. The volunteers moved to the sidewalk immediately; Hawkins said this was the first time today anyone had complained about this. — Molly Horak

(5:25 p.m.) A team of students from UNC Asheville served as vote protectors through Democracy NC at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center in Asheville’s historically Black Southside neighborhood. As previously reported by Xpress, the Morrisville-based nonprofit planned to deploy over 2,000 vote protectors throughout the state on Election Day, up from 1,100 in 2016.

UNCA student volunteers
ON WATCH: UNCA students Aryelle Jacobsen, Demon Thomas and Maggie Schall, from left, volunteered as vote protectors through Democracy NC. Photo by Laura Hackett

Student Aryelle Jacobsen said she hoped to make a difference in the community beyond UNCA. While she’d seen a lot of voter engagement on campus, Jacobsen continued, she felt the university hadn’t used its resources to promote democracy outside the student population and had been looking for other opportunities.

“We got a grant [from Democracy NC] to be out here, to get snacks, to give out masks and just work as vote protectors,” Jacobsen explained. “We are a nonpartisan resource to answer questions for voters, and then if voters have a problem, we can also advocate for them to make sure their vote is counted and answer any questions or report anything that isn’t up to protocol.” — Laura Hackett

(5:10 p.m.) At 4 p.m., Buncombe County Election Services released its final update on Election Day voting numbers. A total of 15,101 voters had cast their ballots in person today by that time, bringing the county’s turnout so far to 75.5% — and shattering the 2016 turnout rate of 70.1%.

Trump supporter outside the West Asheville Library
MAKE AMERICA PROUD AGAIN: Sarah, a supporter of President Donald Trump who chose only to share her first name, has been camped out in the parking lot of the West Asheville Library all day, playing music from her portable boombox. Photo by Laura Hackett

Because so many citizens have already voted by mail or during early voting, however, the Election Day turnout is shaping up to be much less than it was in 2016. That year’s presidential race saw 33,450 Election Day votes in Buncombe County, with the majority going to Republican Donald Trump. About 65,000 registered Buncombe voters had not cast ballots in 2020 as of Nov. 1.

The county’s busiest Election Day precincts have been Pole Creek Baptist Church with 521 votes and Pisgah Elementary School with 512 votes. Barnardsville Elementary School and the Biltmore Forest Town Hall are tied for third place with 354 votes each. — Daniel Walton

(4:50 p.m.) Lois Hodgson, a temporary employee for Buncombe County Election Services, says she and her team have been working for nine hours a day since September to prepare for the tsunami of absentee ballots this election. Today, she’s set up with several teammates in front of the Election Services building at 77 McDowell St. in downtown Asheville.

Lois Hodgson
ON DUTY: Lois Hodgson, a temporary employee with Buncombe County Election Services, says she and her team have been working for nine hours a day since September to prepare for the tsunami of absentee ballots this election. Photo by Laura Hackett

“Any vote that gets brought here is going straight to the mothership,” Hodgson says. “I’ve been telling the voters who are stressed, you can’t get any safer than this. That gives them some relief, with all the controversy that’s been going on.” — Laura Hackett

(4:30 p.m.) The end is in sight. At 7:30 p.m., all but four polling places will close across North Carolina. By 8:15 p.m., those that opened late due to technical difficulties or staffing problems will stop accepting voters. And then, the state will enter the final stages of the 2020 general election.

Mountain Xpress will be following developments throughout the night on this live blog. Expect boots-on-the ground reports from polling places, background on local races, statements from candidates — and, of course, summaries of unofficial results as soon as they become available.

Tonight’s blog team includes Xpress managing editor Virginia Daffron, who will focus on the local N.C. General Assembly races and the contest for the U.S. House District 11 seat; reporter Molly Horak, who will tune in to the Buncombe County Democratic Party’s election night Zoom call; and writer Laura Hackett, who’s been talking to voters at precincts across Asheville. Assistant editor Daniel Walton will provide updates on county races and coordinate the night’s coverage.

It’s worth keeping in mind that, although the N.C. State Board of Elections has predicted that 97% of ballots will be reported by the end of election night, official results won’t be certified until Tuesday, Nov. 24. All results reported this evening are subject to change as state and local officials work to ensure all eligible votes are counted.

Got questions, concerns or tips about the election? Email dwalton@mountainx.com, and we’ll try to address them in the blog. — Daniel Walton


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One thought on “WNC General Election 2020 live coverage

  1. Jordan

    I personally am quite relieved, then satisfied, proud. Glad to hear I was not the only one tired of Moe Davis pretending to be an underdog and RONEY just falling short. A lot of us are working class and need her representation. She sure knows how to take a minute to the meeting and has put in years towards this. Inspiring. Congrats to Madison. Hope he doesnt run into too many challenges in expression and communications with constituents, only because he is young. But i do believe he deserves it, and Im sure his heart is pure gold. Sage Turner- happy to see that we have another candidate that hasnt served on council yet. What an honor it must be to take Mark Meadows’ seat!
    A lot of Ashevillians feel left out of their own communities as council focuses on the tourism that dually degenerates any form of individual agency, and exacerbaters the Covid-19 pandemic. Happy Kilgore wants to focus on that as well. ALL WILL BE WELL in our little “weird” bubble. MAGA aligns well: We all want to make ASHEVILLE great again. Good luck to you all. Lets be transparent, please please please!

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