Young, Haynes and Mayfield win seats on Asheville City Council

Keith Young (right) with campaign manager David Roat. Young placed first in the polls yet spent the lowest of the six candidates on the ballot. Photos by Able Allen

By Hayley Benton, Able Allen & Virginia Daffron

As the polls were closing at 7:30 p.m., many voters around Asheville sat glued to their computer screens, chewing their fingernails, refreshing the state Board of Elections page and waiting for the first results of the Asheville City Council race to roll in.

While early voting results showed candidates Julie Mayfield, Keith Young and Marc Hunt in the lead, results quickly moved all up and down the board. Rich Lee flip-flopped twice from fifth to fourth, Hunt quickly dropped from third to fourth — to fifth, and Young and Brian Haynes passed Mayfield, who remained in third, after more than half the precincts had reported back.

Ultimately, Vice Mayor Hunt lost his bid for re-election, and Young, Haynes and Mayfield (in that order) won Ashevilleans’ votes and the three City Council seats.2015 general election results

By 10 p.m. on election night, 40 of 40 precincts had reported in, leaving Lee in fourth, Hunt in fifth and Lindsey Simerly in sixth, despite a strong campaign.

Over at The Grey Eagle, both Haynes and Young watched the numbers roll in among supporters.

As the first results came in, Young, then in the No. 2 spot, turned to Haynes, then No. 4, and said, “You’re close, man!”

Though the race was close for the majority of the night, those initial early voting numbers separated Haynes from the top three by a single vote.

"I never thought I would do anything like this," Haynes told one supporter.  Photo by Able Allen
“I never thought I would do anything like this,” Haynes told one supporter. Photo by Able Allen

Young, who placed fourth in the primary, climbed the general election’s political ladder to the No. 1 spot after just half of the precincts had reported in.

“Well, you know, in the primary, I was second for a long time before I dropped to four, so I’m not too sure about anything,” said Young, unsure whether to celebrate at the time. “I was everywhere today, like that old cartoon of Bugs Bunny playing baseball. I was at polling places. I knocked on doors. I made phone calls. So, we’ll see what happens, man.”

As the top three became abundantly clear, Haynes offered some thoughts on his campaign and a congratulations to his opponent: “At this point, I feel really happy,” he said. “As soon as the precincts closed I felt good — not necessarily about how I would finish but that I have run a good campaign. I’m happy no matter what happens. Right now, I’m really happy for Keith. Right now I’m extremely proud of my town.”

At West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel, Lee accepted his No. 4 finish and explained to constituents: “We ran the hardest-working campaign. We didn’t have a lot of advantages: money, big endorsements and no built-in constituency. We had a very diverse base of supporters, and we won those people over one by one.

Lee, middle, watches the votes come in at Buffalo Nickel with campaign operative Tim Hines (left) and Adam White (right).  "This could happen," White said to Lee, with 60 percent of votes in.
Lee, middle, watches the votes come in at Buffalo Nickel with campaign operative Tim Hines (left) and Adam White (right). “This could happen,” White said to Lee, with 60 percent of votes in. Photo by Virginia Daffron

“A local political insider said to me today, ‘You were the moral and intellectual center of the campaign,'” he continued. “That meant a lot to me. The project of Asheville doesn’t stop here for me. Tomorrow it’s back to work. I have committee meetings, a greenway commission meeting coming up to walk the French Broad West Greenway I’ve been instrumental in planning.”

Lee’s Campaign Manager Stephanie Hellert remained positive, hinting that this won’t be the last time Lee appears on the ballot: “I feel so good about how the campaign has gone. As Rich has said, we left everything out on the field. And the fourth place finish could be significant if we do see some sitting council members elected to county commission. So we are very pleased with this outcome.”

Outgoing city councilman, Marc Hunt, gets some air after the results are all in. Photo by Able Allen
Outgoing city councilman, Marc Hunt, gets some air after the results are all in. Photo by Able Allen

Feelings were mixed over at the Millroom, where Mayfield, Hunt and Simerly celebrated a split victory and defeat.

Hunt, the only incumbent in the race, took the stage and admitted that the results were “an unexpected result for many of us,” and conceded his defeat. “I’m going to stay committed in any way I can to the city of Asheville,” he said. “We share an ultimate goal and I’m not going to let go of that. Let’s move forward together.”

Following Hunt, Simerly took the stage and thanked voters for their support. “You’ve got to love a city where you can be 31, gay, covered in tattoos and be part of the establishment,” she said, as the room erupted in laughter.

Melissa Wilson (left) supports her wife Lindsey Simerly who came in right behind incumbent Marc Hunt in the election results. Photo by Able Allen
Melissa Wilson (left) supports her wife Lindsey Simerly who came in right behind incumbent Marc Hunt in the election results. Photo by Able Allen

Celebrating her victory, Mayfield, who was the top vote-getter in the primary, stood and said, “It is incredibly overwhelming that 6,000 people went out and voted for me. … I am confident that, with your support, I can do a good job helping to lead us forward to where we want to go.”

Later, Mayfield added, “Obviously I’m really excited about my victory, and I’m ready to get to work for the people of Asheville. [At the same time,] I’m disappointed that I won’t have the chance to serve with Marc. He’s been a really hard-working city councilperson, and I think it’s a loss to Asheville [that he wasn’t re-elected].”

Julie Mayfield enjoys the congratulations of supporters as she wins a seat on Asheville's city council. Photo by Able Allen
Julie Mayfield enjoys the congratulations of supporters as she wins a seat on Asheville’s city council. Photo by Able Allen

At the Mayfield-Hunt-Simerly party, Mayor Esther Manheimer said, “I’m somewhat surprised, but you know they were all good candidates. When you’ve got a voter turnout of 14,000, a bunch of your friends can sway the outcome. I’ll miss Marc dearly, but I know he will continue to be involved in the community so that’s good for Asheville.”

At the Buffalo Nickel, Democratic political insider Jake Quinn told Xpress, “We all expected this to be a very close election, and Asheville didn’t disappoint us. This fourth spot could turn out to be very important, so I think that the positive nature of the campaign Rich has run is especially significant. He has proved that he can collaborate, that he can really understand the issues at a deep level. And I think that means the rest of council would give him the vote if another seat becomes available in the next year.”

Quinn added: “The real story is the Keith Young story. How much did he spend in comparison with the other candidates? How did his campaign manager David Roat pull off such a brilliant win? They ran under the radar for months with an intelligent campaign that cost nothing. He got robbed when he ran Lael Gray [in 2011].  Well, that didn’t happen this time.”

While the rest of the candidates pulled in $17,000 (Lee) to nearly $30,000 (Hunt) in campaign contributions, Young’s No. 1 win cost him and his campaign less than $5,000.

To read up on the winning three candidates, click on their photos below:


Keith Young

Brian Haynes

Julie Mayfield


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] Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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12 thoughts on “Young, Haynes and Mayfield win seats on Asheville City Council

  1. OneWhoKnows

    HA! Glad Hunt is OUT…(laughing at Lou Bissette and all the Big Gun supporters !!!) Ok, so the blacks really turned out to elect their own, good. Simerly and Lee just FIZZLED as we thought they would! Lee didn’t have a chance with all his negativism,
    attacking veterans and NEVER answering website questions…loser.

  2. James

    Wow, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that Keith Young won. Good for him and I hope he will gain a lot of power on the council and hopefully persuade more of the black community to get active in the city and show up for council meetings. The progressive whites that flood into Asheville year after year are not here to “help the black community” as they like to preach. Look around the city and tell me what happened to the historically black neighborhoods? They’re largely gone because of arrogant gentrifying progressives bringing their intolerant views on sustainability with them. As for the others, Haynes seems like he’s probably a decent person but he’s a total progressive. Hopefully he’ll keep the progressive agenda in check when the reality of city government and infrastructure come up. Mayfield is also in the same category as Haynes – she should know coming from Atlanta that infrastructure has to take priority over bike paths. I’m very happy to see that Simerly was not elected. Sorry Lindsey but being a lesbian and running on the fact that you’re a lesbian who thinks affordable housing is great does not qualify you to serve on city council. But, I’m sure one day she’ll be there because these people never give up and with more and more progressives moving to Asheville, its only a matter of time before she’s on city council and maybe even mayor. I still think that all non-progressive taxpayers should consider selling their houses and moving out of the city of Asheville. The makeup of city council now with Haynes and Mayfield together with the despicable Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell will likely mean a lot of legislation that will result in massive tax increases and quality of life issues. You’ve all been warned.

    • ApePeeD

      Lindsey Simerly was ONLY running on the fact that she was lesbian. If she actually had a campaign, she could have creamed the election. But no…

      • Lulz

        That in itself is a disqualification is it not LOL? Not that she is a lesbian, but that she thought being one was a reason to vote for her lulz?

        LOL, why is it people with labels who finally achieve equalitycontinue to throw those labels around like they are special and assume anyone cares anymore lulz? When it comes down to it, money and how these people will impact others via how much they take is more important than labels lulz.

      • NFB

        She made no secret of who she was but if you think that was all she was running on you really weren’t pay very close attention.

    • Jim Berel

      I’d like to think Keith’s victory is not about black and white, but about doing what’s right for the taxpayers of Asheville. The fact that a lot of the “progressives” are white, is less important than the fact that Van Winkle Law firm and others have been funding candidates they label “progressive” in a shameless appeal to the counter culture voters who make up a large part of the turn out in Asheville. Perhaps those voters are starting to clue into the fact that they are just being pandered to for an election win because of their polarized views, and they actually get nothing they bargained for. The term “progressive” is just a disingenuous marketing hook any more. I’m more than happy to stand with any candidate, of any color, who rejects this “progressive” sham and seeks to provide actual service to the residents of this community. We’ve had enough candidates serving their cronies or standing as one issue know-nothings. There is soooo much wrong with basic city services, I hope at least two of the three new Council members will follow through to do something meaningful about fixing them.
      P.S. – Somebody needs to tell Ms. Simerly that she doesn’t avoid being part of the establishment because she’s gay and has tattoos. It’s all about who you align yourself with. I’m proud of Asheville for rejecting another bought-and-paid-for City election. Hopefully they will see fit to reject these scam artists in the future. Still ashamed of the turn out though.

    • hauntedheadnc

      “They’re largely gone because of arrogant gentrifying progressives bringing their intolerant views on sustainability with them.”

      Really? Neighborhoods like the East End and Stumptown are gone because of gentrifying progressives?

      You’re going to have to explain that one, because here all this time I thought they’d been bulldozed because of the same anti-Black “slum clearance” urban renewal policies of the 60’s that wiped out Black neighborhoods across the country. I’m also extremely curious as to how sustainability is intolerant.

  3. Henry

    So Cecil takes two, and almost all three with Rich Lee in striking distance of Mayfield.

    I bet Gordon feels less confident about that March primary coming up.

  4. Lan Sluder

    I followed the election closely, even though I live outside the city limits (but I was born in the city!) As I saw it, all six candidates were thoughtful. progressive and had a lot of good ideas. Congrats to the winners, but in the end I believe that no matter how the vote totals ended up, Asheville would have won.

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