WNC primary elections 2020 live coverage

Moe Davis and friends
MOE-MENT OF VICTORY: Moe Davis, back row center, stands with supporters during his watch party at Green Man Brewing in downtown Asheville. Photo by Virginia Daffron

(10:28 p.m.) The results may be unofficial, but they are complete. As of 9:55 p.m., all 80 precincts in Buncombe County had reported their voting results to the state board of elections.

Speaking to the Democratic watch party crowd, Parker Sloan thanked his campaign volunteers for “standing out in the monsooning rains” as he accepted his victory in the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 3 primary.

“Now, we look towards November,” Sloan continued. “We have to come together. We have to get people to engage in civic life in more ways than they ever have before if we’re going to come together as a country, as a county and as a party.”

With that, county government reporter Daniel Walton is signing off for the evening. Expect a recap of the night’s action tomorrow here on the Mountain Xpress website and in next week’s print edition.

THE BLOCK Sanders watch party
BLOCK PARTY: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders watch the results come in at THE BLOCK off biltmore in Asheville. Photo by Brooke Randle

(10:14 p.m.) Lest we forget, North Carolina isn’t the only state voting tonight. Super Tuesday includes 14 states, and the hotly contested Democratic presidential contest is on many voters’ minds.

Brooke Randle checked in at THE BLOCK off biltmore, where a watch party was underway for supporters of Bernie Sanders. She says that a cheer went up as the Associated Press called the Colorado primary in his favor; Sanders has generally lagged behind Joe Biden during the night’s contests, with half of the states now called in the former vice president’s favor.

(10:03 p.m.) Back at the Highland watch party, Allen spoke with Sage Turner, who has won the Asheville City Council race with 12,466 votes (15.82% of the total) after all of the city’s 40 precincts have turned in results. A first-time candidate, Turner said she is “really appreciative” for the support voters showed her.

“I speak a lot to affordable housing, which I believe is tied to so many needs in our community and become one of our most dire needs,” Turner continued. “I think the residents of Asheville are ready for some movement in that regard, that we need it, and perhaps that’s what they were looking for of me.”

(9:54 p.m.) Xpress reporters haven’t yet encountered any of the Democratic candidates for N.C. Senate District 48, which represents the eastern portion of Buncombe County. That’s likely because the bulk of the district’s population lies to the south, in Henderson and Transylvania counties.

However, results for the Buncombe portion of the district mirror those of District 48 in total: Brian Caskey looks set to win over Cristal Figueroa and Najah Underwood. With 55 of 67 precincts reporting, the current Mills River mayor pro tem has 11,574 votes (49.81% of the total), while Figueroa has 7,714 votes (33.20%) and Underwood has 3,950 (17%).

(9:42 p.m.) Over now to Virginia Daffron, who has moved on to the watch party of Democratic U.S. House of Representatives District 11 candidate Moe Davis at Green Man Brewing in downtown Asheville. With 274 of the district’s 304 precincts reporting, Davis appears sure to win his party’s nomination; he currently boasts 47,747 votes (47.52% of the total), with Collias trailing by nearly 25,000 votes.

If his win is confirmed tonight, Daffron reports, Davis says his next step will be building a more robust campaign organization. He says Democrats must remember that District 11 still leans Republican and a win is impossible without obtaining some Republican votes.

(9:33 p.m.) When it rains, it pours. 93.75% of Buncombe County precincts are now reporting, with a total of 78,738 votes cast as of last report. The results of the two contested Board of Commissioners contests are thus all but assured: Wells has bested Nelson in the District 1 Democratic primary with 12,542 votes (66.78%) to 6,239 (33.22%) and all precincts reporting, while Parker Sloan is beating out Donna Ensley in the District 3 race with 8,853 votes (53.52%) to 7,689 (46.48%) and two precincts remaining.

“We are all good candidates,” Nelson told Able Allen at the Highland watch party. “I think I’m the better of the two candidates — I’ve got the business background that’s really what I think the board needs right now — but Terri Wells has been a friend of mine for over 10 years, and she will make a good commissioner too.

(9:20 p.m.) At the Democratic watch party, Allen reports that Julie Mayfield says she is “heartened” by her substantial lead over rivals Ben Scales and Travis Smith for her party’s nomination in the N.C. Senate District 49 race. Mayfield currently boasts 16,399 votes (68.73% of the total), dwarfing Scales’ 4,034 (16.91%) and Smith’s 3,426 (14.36%)

Mayfield says there wasn’t much difference in political platform between the three candidates. Instead, she believes, her lead arose from her “experience and relationships in the community.”

Smith, meanwhile, concedes that “short of a miracle,” Mayfield’s lead is insurmountable. “I have full confidence that Julie can represent us well in Raleigh,” he says. “What matters the most is  that after the primary, all Democrats come together and unite, because next November is so, so important.”

(9:10 p.m.) Early voting results for Buncombe County are now online, with the state Board of Elections website reporting that the last precinct uploaded its results at 8:40 p.m. The closest race appears to be the nine-way scramble for Asheville City Council, with no candidate earning even 17% of the total vote.

Turner leads the pack with 6,353 votes (16.53% of the total), followed by incumbent Keith Young at 5,631 votes (14.65%) and Lee with 5,176 (13.47%). The top three are followed by Roney, Townsend and Sandra Kilgore; only the top six candidates advance to November’s general election. That means Goldsmith, McCarthy and Larry Ray Baker are currently below the cut.

State Rep. John Ager, Buncombe County Commissioner Amanda Edwards and Board of Commissioners District 1 candidate Terri Wells
IN THE HOUSE: Pictured from left to right at the Democratic watch party at Highland Brewing Company: State Rep. John Ager, Buncombe County Commissioner Amanda Edwards and Board of Commissioners District 1 candidate Terri Wells. Photo by Able Allen

(9:05 p.m.) With no results forthcoming for Buncombe County, reports Able Allen, there’s comparatively little to talk about at the Democratic watch event. Nevertheless, a number of party leaders and hopeful leaders continue to soldier on.

Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 1 candidates Nancy Nehls Nelson and Terri Wells are both at Highland Brewing Co., as are Asheville City Council hopefuls Sage Turner, Shane McCarthy and Kristin Goldsmith. State Rep. John Ager, who does not have a contested primary this time around, had time to pose for a picture earlier in the night with Wells and Buncombe Commissioner Amanda Edwards.

(8:48 p.m.) Results continue to trickle in from across the state, but nothing has yet been released for Buncombe County. With 11.61% of precincts reporting, the Associated Press has called the Democratic presidential contest for Joe Biden, who has thus far earned 173,173 votes (32.24% of the total). Bernie Sanders is currently in second with 125,207 votes (23.31%) and Mike Bloomberg in third with 92,605 votes (17.24%).

In the races for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Thom Tillis looks set to win his party’s primary with a current total of 242,986 votes (79.04%), besting his closest contender, Paul Wright, by over 220,000 votes. Cal Cunningham leads Erica Smith in the Democratic primary by over 100,000 votes.

Electric Slide and Roney/Townsend watch party
YOU KNOW THAT YOU FEEL IT: Supporters of Asheville City Council candidates Nicole Townsend and Kim Roney do the Electric Slide as they wait for Buncombe County election results to become available. Photo by Brooke Randle

(8:40 p.m.) Townsend and Roney supporters aren’t content to sit and wait for the results, reports Randle. Instead, their watch party has turned into a dance party — music blasts as the crowd performs the Electric Slide.

No dance parties are taking place at either the official Democratic event or the Cawthorn watch party, report Xpress staffers.

(8:32 p.m.) Daffron spoke to Madison Cawthorn supporter Jeff Buchanan, one of roughly 90 people attending the candidate’s watch party, who was at the polls for Cawthorn in Maggie Valley all day today. “There was a great energy. That’s Jim Davis territory, but people said they had enjoyed getting to know Madison and look forward to watching him. I didn’t hear a lot about Lynda Bennett. I went to her house [in Maggie Valley] but just didn’t hear a lot.”

Cawthorn himself is not in the building, Daffron reports; he’s been working the polls and will join later in the evening.

Zack Cawthorn
OH BROTHER: Zack Cawthorn, center, the brother of Republican U.S. House of Representatives District 11 candidate Madison Cawthorn, waits for results at a watch party at the Asheville Dance and Event Center. Photo by Virginia Daffron

(8:25 p.m.) Buncombe is still a blank, but some early voting results have trickled in from the rest of WNC, shedding insight into the Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. House District 11. On the Republican side, Lynda Bennett leads with 6,752 votes (25.4% of the total), followed by Jim Davis with 5,669 votes (21.32%) and Cawthorn with 5,378 votes (20.23%).

Moe Davis has a commanding lead among early-voting Democrats, earning 10,672 (48.82%) of the votes cast thus far. Gina Collias trails with 4,352 votes (19.91%), and Phillip Price is in third with 3,085 votes (14.11%). Worth mentioning: a candidate must secure at least 30% of all votes to avoid a runoff election.

(8:17 p.m.) Although the Democratic ballot had more action overall in this year’s primaries, the race that perhaps attracted the most national attention was on the Republican side. In the wake of Rep. Mark Meadows announcing that he would not seek reelection, 12 of his party fellows jumped in to seek the nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives District 11 seat, with 11 continuing in the race up to the primary voting day.

Xpress managing editor Virginia Daffron is at the watch party for one of those candidates, Madison Cawthorn, being held at the Asheville Event and Dance Center in South Asheville. She reports that the space is festively adorned with balloons; Cawthorn’s older brother Zack Cawthorn is there to lend his sibling support.

Meanwhile, early results for Buncombe County are still not forthcoming from the state Board of Elections. At the Roney and Townsend watch party, Randle reports, the candidates have turned off the projector displaying the webpage and have invited those in attendance to share stories of hope.

Mayfield, Furst, Lee and Manheimer
GANG OF FOUR: At the Buncombe County Democratic Party watch event at Highland Brewing Co., pictured from left to right, are Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield, Democratic activist Lindsay Lee Furst, Council candidate Rich Lee and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. Photo by Able Allen

(8:03 p.m.) While Roney, Townsend and O’Shea gather at the Edington Center, many of the candidates who are a part of or endorsed by Asheville’s existing political power structure are stationed at the Highland watch event. Allen snapped a photo of Asheville City Council member (and N.C. Senate 49 hopeful) Julie Mayfield, Council contender Rich Lee and Mayor Esther Manheimer at the official Democratic party. Manheimer endorsed both Lee and Mayfield in the primaries for their respective races.

(7:50 p.m.) Randle spoke with Roney as she awaited the release of early voting results. “I am exhausted,” said the Asheville City Council hopeful. Between canvassing and poll greeting, she added, “On Saturday before 4 p.m., I walked 18,857 steps.”

But Roney was also encouraged, she said, because “neighbors are showing up for each other.” She said many of the voters she met at the polls had done extensive research but that those newer to town, largely focused on the contested Democratic presidential primary, were eager to meet and hear from local candidates.

(7:39 p.m.) Polls are now officially not accepting any new voters throughout Western North Carolina. Early voting results should be available soon, but the N.C. State Board of Elections has yet to post any numbers to its website.

Able Allen, reporting from the Buncombe County Democratic Party watch event at Highland Brewing Company, says political hawks can expect a short delay. According to Jeff Rose, the county party’s chair, the board won’t post data until every polling location is closed, with voters in line having their chance to cast ballots. Rose estimates that the first results will come online around 8:10 p.m.

(7:29 p.m.) One minute before the official closing of polls at 7:30 p.m., the Buncombe County Board of Election Services website reports substantial lines at a number of polling places. The Lutheran Church of the Nativity in Arden reported 72 people in line as of 7:03 p.m., while 28 voters were waiting at the Hominy Valley Elementary School in Candler as of 6:57 p.m. — both the latest times for which information was available.

And the first report from the field comes from city reporter Brooke Randle, live at the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood. She notes that approximately 30 people are there with Council candidates Roney and Townsend; Michael O’Shea, a Democratic candidate for the hotly contested U.S. House of Representatives District 11 seat, poses with them for a group picture as they wish each other good luck.

(7:22 p.m.) According to numbers made available through the nonprofit Civitas Institute’s VoteTracker tool, early voting enthusiasm in Buncombe County is at its highest level for a primary election in recent history. Through Feb. 29, 38,662 early ballots had been cast in 2020, compared with 9,406 in the 2018 midterms and 33,004 in the 2016 presidential year.

Democrats made up the majority of those early voters, representing nearly 53% of the total, while Republicans comprised just over 15%. And 12,316 unaffiliated voters turned out, a little less than 32%; that voter group has swelled in number throughout North Carolina since 2016, as Xpress reported in January.

Those who voted early, however, may not be representative of the county as a whole. Just 1,058 (2.74%) early voters identified as African American, although Census estimates put the black proportion of Buncombe’s population at 6.3% as of July 2019. Close to half of Buncombe early voters (16,714, or 43.23%) were aged 65 or over, a demographic comprising only 20% of the population according to Census estimates.

"It's Super Tuesday" cake
SWEET DEMOCRACY: Xpress staffers enjoyed this cake from The Crunchy Baker while preparing to cover Western North Carolina’s primary elections. Photo by Laura Walton

(7:12 p.m.) Buncombe County’s turnout on Election Day topped 29,000 as of 4 p.m., according to numbers from the county’s Board of Election Services. Montford North Star Academy hosted 669 voters by that time, while the Murphy-Oakley Community Center came in a close second with 660 voters.

Only two polling places failed to crack double digits by 4 p.m. Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville’s East End/Valley St. neighborhood saw 86 voters, while Newfound Community Center in Leicester received the least action with just 83 ballots cast.

(7:00 p.m.) Nearly 15 months since the first candidate from Buncombe County declared her intention to run in the 2020 elections — N.C. District 49 Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, who announced her bid for lieutenant governor in December 2018 — voters across Western North Carolina are finally close to finishing the first chapter of this year’s contests. In races from Asheville City Council to the U.S. House of Representatives, area citizens will choose who will move on to the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, and who must wait until other cycle begins.

Polls close at 7:30 p.m., and the Mountain Xpress news team is ready to capture the reactions of hopeful electeds as the results roll in. Managing editor Virginia Daffron is attending the Buncombe County Republican Party’s election night party at the BCGOP headquarters on Regent Park Boulevard in West Asheville. City government reporter Brooke Randle is starting her night at an event hosted by Council candidates Kim Roney and Nicole Townsend, while writer Able Allen is covering the Buncombe County Democratic Party watch event at Highland Brewing Company. And county government reporter Daniel Walton is posted up at Xpress headquarters in beautiful downtown Asheville to write about it all.

Throughout the evening, this post will be updated with the latest election results and comments from candidates for offices representing WNC. Full primary numbers, including those for the presidential, senatorial and statewide races, are available through the N.C. State Board of Elections website.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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