(10:45 p.m.) Randle is closing out her night at the Mountain Lodge in Flat Rock, where Chuck Edwards is celebrating his apparent victory with about 60 supporters. He thanked those backed his campaign against incumbent Cawthorn, saying current elected officials took a risk to do so.
“How great is it that we have become so energized that folks are willing to get out in a primary and select someone to represent the party in Washington, D.C. I think that is a true testament to the country we live in and the belief that we have in our system,” Edwards said. “In spite of the problems that we have, it’s a sign that we have not given up, and we’re more determined than even to take control of our own destiny.”
“Tomorrow, when we get up, we’re going to be 100% focused on Jasmine Beach-Ferrara,” he added. “We’re going to be 100% focused on taking the gavel away from [Democratic House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi.”
That marks the end of tonight’s updates. Thanks so much for reading, and be on the lookout for a more concise summary of tonight’s results in next week’s print issue of Xpress.
(10:19 p.m.) The situation is much clearer on the Democratic side of the N.C. 11 race, where Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has earned nearly 60% of the vote. Speaking at the Rabbit Rabbit event in Asheville, she thanked supporters and called for Democrats to unite in winning November races down the entire ballot.
In an interview with Allen after her speech, Beach-Ferrara said voters had emphasized “the urgency of this moment” on the campaign trail. Needs like rural broadband, treatment for unhealthy opioid use and pre-K, she said, couldn’t wait for the future.
“We also heard people say loud and clearly that they are sick and tired of the politics of division and extremism,” she added. “We have finished the last several [campaign finance] reporting periods with more cash on hand than Cawthorn, so we know we are ready to go toe-to-toe with whoever the Republican nominee is, and we know that people all across the country understand what is at stake with this race.”
(10:05 p.m.) All but six precincts in the 11th Congressional District are now reporting, and it appears that Chuck Edwards may have eked out a victory over Madison Cawthorn. With 29,213 votes (33.49%) compared to Cawthorn’s 27,664 (31.72%), Edwards would exceed the 30% threshold necessary to avoid a runoff.
Reporter Randle traveled to Hendersonville, where Cawthorn held his watch party in a building that used to be an auto detailing shop. Addressing a crowd of about 100 people, the incumbent remained hopeful that uncounted votes would still break his way.
“It’s still to be decided, but my friends, I genuinely believe we will take a victory out of this today. I believe we will not have a runoff election and so we should be moving forward to a historic victory to rebuild America and set it back to its former glory,” Cawthorn said.
(9:47 p.m.) As noted by the N.C. State Board of Elections, Buncombe County’s races aren’t over just because all precincts are reporting. County boards of elections must count absentee-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day that arrive in the mail by 5 p.m. Friday, May 20. Ballots from military and overseas voters received by 5 p.m. May 26 will also be counted, as required by state law, and provisional ballots also must be researched.
Those changes, which will be finalized Thursday, June 9, could shift the provisional results for two particularly close Buncombe primaries. In the Republican contest for state House District 115, just 7 votes currently separate hotelier Pratik Bhakta and certified public accountant Sherry Higgins, with Bhakta in the lead.
And in the Democratic primary for Buncombe County District Attorney, incumbent Todd Williams leads progressive challenger Courtney Booth by only 155 votes. Doug Edwards, who campaigned on his prosecutorial record and endorsement by the N.C. Police Benevolent Association, trails Booth by more than 1,400 votes.
Joe Bowman, who suspended his campaign in March to endorse Booth, still received 392 votes, well over the number separating her and Williams.
(9:32 p.m.) With all Buncombe County precincts reporting, Al Whitesides has a more than 5,000-vote lead over Bill Branyon and will advance to the November election against Republican Anthony Penland. Although Whitesides has served on the Buncombe Board of Commissioners since 2016, this is the first time he’s faced an electoral challenger.
“What they’re concerned about is keeping our quality of life that we have in the community,” Whitesides told Allen, about the voters he’d encountered during his campaign. “I think a lot of people were really concerned about local issues, and as a commissioner, that’s what I’m concerned about: things that we can control.”
Whitesides named broadband access, homelessness, pre-kindergarten, affordable housing and economic development as issues county government should address in the coming years. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got quality jobs that pay people a living wage, with benefits, so that they can live here,” he said.
(9:15 p.m.) The first batch of Election Day results are now available online. In the Democratic primary for Buncombe County Sheriff, incumbent Quentin Miller appears set to cruise to victory over challenger David Hurley with a more than 73-point lead.
At the Off The Wagon watch party, Hurley told reporter Wakeman that regardless of the results, he was happy with the work of his team over his 15-month campaign. His biggest lesson, he said: “Voters don’t really take the right to vote seriously. So many people go to the polls; they’re not necessarily voting because they heard about people, they just vote for parties.”
Hurley said he would prefer for races to be run in a nonpartisan manner, with candidates competing solely on the merits of their positions. And going forward, he hopes that Miller and other elected officials open their ears to a broader range of constituents.
“People who are elected have to start listening to the people of Buncombe County. Not what they think is best for us, but actually going out into the community,” Hurley said.
(9:04 p.m.) Meanwhile, in West Asheville, Brooke Randle is at the Burton Street Peace Garden for a watch party with Asheville City Council member and mayoral candidate Kim Roney. As of early voting results, Roney was in second among the five-person field with 2,844 votes (28.65%), trailing incumbent Mayor Esther Manheimer with 4,799 votes (48.34%). The top two candidates will advance to November’s general election.
“Compared to 2020, when we were having some very tense conversations, the timbre was calmer,” Roney told Randle over a roaring bonfire. The candidate said the responsiveness of current city government and affordable housing were key issues she’d heard on the campaign trail.
Roney said her campaign was also an invitation for voters to ask for more from Council. “Ask for us to support the boards and commissions; ask for us to make public meetings and documents more accessible,” she said. “When I see those [early voting] numbers, maybe that’s a reflection of alignment.”
(8:44 p.m.) On the Democratic side of the U.S. House District 11 ballot, Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has a comfortable lead in a six-way contest with 18,125 votes (61.10%). Trailing her is Katie Dean with 7,260 votes (24.47%); no other candidate has more than 7.5% of the vote.
Allen spoke with Bo Hess, a social worker who is currently in fourth place with 1,049 votes (3.54%). “We were under no illusions with this race. What we are is building momentum for those next races, making sure that we have good candidates, whether that be for federal races or state races,” Hess said about the results. “The No. 1 thing I heard from people was do not drop out of politics. We built a little brand for ourselves, which was knowing the issues and being policy-oriented.”
(8:29 p.m.) Less successful in early voting were the four members of “Your Team Asheville” — Council candidates Doug Brown, Alex Cobb and Andy Ledford, along with mayoral hopeful Cliff Feingold. No members of the conservative slate, with their focus on public safety and business-friendly policies, currently have enough votes to qualify for the general election.
Reporter Jessica Wakeman is at the group’s watch party at the Off The Wagon Dueling Piano Bar in downtown Asheville. “One of the things that I’ve learned in the past few months is that there’s of people who pay attention to national politics, but not enough people that I think pay attention to local politics,” Ledford said. “Local politics really affects us more than anything else.”
“I’ve met with nearly every one of the other City Council candidates and talked with them and had really good conversations,” he added. “I think everybody that’s running has a good plan for the city; I just think that we all are going to approach it a different way.”
(8:15 p.m.) At the top of the early voting heap in the 11-way Asheville City Council race is Maggie Ullman Berthiaume, whose campaign focused on her municipal government experience as Asheville’s first sustainability director. At 4,816 votes (17.59%), the first-time candidate is currently besting both incumbents, Antanette Mosley and Sheneika Smith, who earned 4,314 (15.76%) and 4,244 (15.50%) of the early total, respectively.
“I’m feeling really proud of the teamwork that we’ve put in on this. I’ve been preparing and working diligently for a year,” Ullman told Allen. “I think my experience in city hall goes a long way. I think that there’s so many awesome people that have great ideas, but it’s very hard to put those ideas to action. And I have been tested and proven from my time when I led work in city hall on sustainability.”
(8:03 p.m.) Early voting results for the state Senate District 49 Democratic primary show a commanding lead for Sen. Julie Mayfield with 8,511 votes (72.19%). Trailing her are current Asheville City Council member Sandra Kilgore with 2,238 votes (18.98%) and Taylon Breeden with 1,040 (8.82%).
Mayfield said she’d been campaigning at seven different stops throughout Asheville during the day and had heard nothing but good feedback from voters. “People weren’t interested in talking about concerns; they were just focused on voting. Which is good,” she told Allen at the Rabbit Rabbit watch party.
“We don’t have a lot of negative campaigning in Asheville, and I feel like this race got that way a little bit, which was surprising. I understand I’m the incumbent, I have a target on my back, but I still expect people to be honest and truthful and not mislead,” Mayfield added.
Although the senator didn’t discuss specifics, Kilgore had attacked Mayfield on social media over her proposal to institute a quarter-cent local sales tax for public transit funding, as well as alleging that Mayfield had conflicts of interest between her elected role and her job as co-director of conservation nonprofit MountainTrue.
(7:47 p.m.) Results for early and absentee ballots are now available through the N.C. State Board of Elections dashboard. And one result jumps out: In the hotly contested U.S. House District 11 Republican primary, state Sen. Chuck Edwards has taken an early lead over Rep. Madison Cawthorn.
Edwards took 13,886 (38.31%) early votes across the district, while Cawthorn earned 9,775 (26.97%). The third candidate of the eight-person field was Matthew Burril, with 9,775 votes (9.32%).
In Buncombe County, that differential is even starker. Edwards took 3,889 (41.64%) of the county’s Republican primary votes, compared with 1,754 (18.78%) for Cawthorn.
(7:40 p.m.) Polls are now officially closed. While we’re waiting on the results, it’s worth noting how strong Buncombe County’s turnout has been compared with historical numbers.
Through 4 p.m., over 42,000 county residents had cast ballots either early or on Election Day. In the 2018 midterm primary, roughly 30,200 people voted in total; in 2014, that number was just over 27,600. Some enthusiasm from 2020’s record turnout thus seems to have carried on.
(7:27 p.m.) Our first report from the field comes from Able Allen, stationed at the official Buncombe County Democratic Party watch party at Rabbit Rabbit in downtown Asheville. He spoke with county Board of Commissioners District 1 candidate Bill Branyon, who is challenging incumbent Al Whitesides in the Democratic primary.
“We focused attention on the Pratt & Whitney plant, which was
the major goal of the campaign,” said Branyon, whose candidacy severely criticized Whitesides and other sitting commissioners for their votes to approve county subsidies for the aerospace firm and military supplier. “To confront the possibility that we’re a staging ground for nuclear Armageddon, that’s not an easy thing to tell people. But they’ve been brave enough to face it, and I think we’re going to get a lot of support for that.”
Asked if he’d taken any lessons from the campaign trail, Branyon said that if he were to run again, he’d start much earlier. “Next time, I would try to run for two years, which is what I think you need to do. I ran for three months this time.”
(7:10 p.m.) Although the plurality of Buncombe County voters are registered as unaffiliated — about 83,000, compared with about 75,000 Democrats, 46,000 Republicans and 1,700 Libertarians — Democrats made up the lion’s share of those voting early. According to the Civitas VoteTracker, nearly 12,100 Buncombe Democrats cast ballots via mail or one-stop early voting, compared with just over 9,000 unaffiliated voters, about 4,700 Republicans and 12 Libertarians.
Those unaffiliated residents, however, were almost evenly split in terms of what major party’s ballot they decided to vote. A little over 4,600 took the Republican ballot, while about 4,400 took the Democratic option.
Some Democratic activists, including former U.S. House District 11 candidate Moe Davis, had encouraged registered Democrats to become unaffiliated so they could vote in the Republican primary against Rep. Madison Cawthorn. Party leadership, including Buncombe County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rose, did not endorse that strategy.
(6:50 p.m.) Reports from Buncombe election officials and candidates suggest that voting has gone mostly smoothly throughout the day. Corinne Duncan, the county’s elections director, said during a press conference earlier today that Election Day lines may have been less crowded than usual due to the preponderance of early voting.
In the 2018 midterm elections, according to the nonprofit Civitas Institute’s VoteTracker tool, about 9,400 Buncombe residents cast ballots by mail or via one-stop early voting. This year, about 26,000 citizens chose those options, by far the most of any previous midterm.
Duncan noted that, while primary voters have traditionally been divided evenly between early voting and Election Day, the COVID-19 pandemic had shifted voting patterns toward early voting throughout the country. In the 2020 general election, over 140,000 of Buncombe’s nearly 207,000 registered voters (about 68%) voted early.
Asheville City Council candidate Andrew Fletcher, posting on the Asheville Politics Facebook group, had this to say: “Been to five precincts already today and have seen no significant wait times. It’s all faster than a Big Mac.”
(6:30 p.m.) According to the good folks at local forecast service Ray’s Weather Center, today has been just about perfect for Western North Carolina residents heading to the polls: five out of five on the website’s “golf-o-meter,” with sunny skies and warm breezes. And as of 4 p.m., over 17,500 Buncombe County residents had done just that, joining the nearly 26,000 citizens who already voted by mail or at a one-stop early voting site.
Those who haven’t yet cast their ballots have until 7:30 p.m.; more details are available through the Buncombe County Election Services website. Throughout the rest of the evening, Mountain Xpress will be following the results as they are announced and speak with local candidates about their responses.
Reporters Able Allen, Brooke Randle and Jessica Wakeman will be covering events held by Democratic, Republican and independent political hopefuls throughout Buncombe and Henderson counties. News editor Daniel Walton is coordinating coverage from the Xpress headquarters at the Miles Building in Asheville, with photography support from Jennifer Castillo.
This post will be updated regularly with the latest election results, analysis and candidate comments. Full primary numbers, including those for senatorial and statewide judicial races, are available through the N.C. State Board of Elections website.