Letter: Sierra Club favors establishment candidates

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I, along with many others, find the WNC Sierra Club endorsements misleading. Their endorsements do not uphold their mission statement and are biased toward the establishment candidates of the local Democratic Party.

This has been especially evident in the Asheville City Council and mayoral races, with the exception being the 2020 election for City Council, where due to rising criticism of their endorsement process, they endorsed all the candidates. With their endorsements, they typically preclude unaffiliated and grassroots candidates, who often more closely align with the Sierra Club mission statement, and throw their support to the party favorites instead.

Then they proceed to misinform WNC voters by staging volunteers at virtually all precinct and voting stations handing out flyers with their recommendations, trying to convince voters that these endorsements best represent their mission of protecting the planet. Unfortunately, many unaware voters who strongly support the mission of the Sierra Club make their choices based on these endorsements, making it extremely challenging to be elected as an independent and/or grassroots candidate.

I am not suggesting that none of the endorsed candidates are worthy of a Sierra Club endorsement. I am questioning the validity of the WNC Sierra Club endorsements when they continue to endorse the establishment candidates, while ignoring other candidates with equal or greater qualifications.

I would suggest that WNC voters who hold “protecting the environment” as a core belief and are looking to elect candidates who share that belief to look beyond the politicized endorsements of the Sierra Club and to closely evaluate all candidates and what they stand for. I would also suggest that folks who have routinely volunteered to work in these precincts based on the Sierra Club’s mission reexamine this commitment and find other ways to pursue the vital need for environmental justice.

— Brian Haynes

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the WNC Sierra Club with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Political Chair Ken Brame: “We are fortunate to have a number of good candidates running for office in Asheville and Buncombe County. The Sierra Club supports the right of every voter to support the candidates of their choice. The Sierra Club does place a high value on supporting candidates with a proven track record of accomplishments and a voting and leadership record that shows their commitment to protecting our environment. Even if some might consider these incumbents to be establishment candidates, we are proud of our support for those with proven accomplishments.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

7 thoughts on “Letter: Sierra Club favors establishment candidates

  1. SpareChange

    If it is to be effective in actually shaping local policies when making endorsements, an issue oriented interest group like Sierra Club not only needs to focus on what positions a candidate holds, or who can score the highest on an ideological purity test, but also on whether or not the person in question has the political smarts, leadership skills and acumen to be an effective advocate for those positions.

    Many of the so-called unaffiliated or grass roots candidates to whom Mr. Haynes seems to refer, may be very well intentioned citizens with strong opinions on certain issues, but they also frequently show themselves to have little or no record of relevant accomplishment, little or no experience working in or with government or business, and few political skills beyond that of being able to voice strong opinions (often at the price of alienating the very people and institutions with whom leaders need to interact, negotiate, and win over).

    • Keith Thomson


      Just having strong opinions, and being “independent,” “sovereign,” or otherwise divorced from the reality of belonging to a broad, albeit imperfect, majority governing coalition is a ticket to lots of exhausting, frustrating protests.

      Just ask those who have spent their time protesting for the last fifty years watching their rights and protections built by long struggle before be eroded by the organized, focused, patient, winners.

  2. Voirdire

    Of course the Sierra Club endorses the establishment candidates… what else would an old school -and more than somewhat no longer relevant- Org do when their main remaining function is to garner financial renumeration from their feel good warm and fuzzy aging membership base?

  3. MV

    It’s an absolute fact that the Sierra Club did not interview *all candidates* prior to endorsing Manheimer and her lackeys. I believe that that is a shame (and sham) bordering on a crime and that the public should be apprised of such negligence. If the environment is important to you, vote for those who have displayed a commitment to infrastructure and urban forests consistently over the years through actual actions and deeds, not lip-service and selling out to the highest bidder.

  4. vrede

    It’s not just Asheville and Buncombe County. Based on his very remote NC Sierra Club presidency the Sierra Club continued to praise Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Hendersonville) long after he became infatuated with Raleigh power and went over to the GQP dark side. McGrady supported corporate tax cuts while our schools plummeted to mediocrity, cheer led for Ag-gag legislation, opposed reparations for victims of forced sterilizations, joined in with racist, antidemocratic, wasteful – as determined by multiple court rulings – voter suppression and gerrymandering, and even became shaky on the environment. Despite all this, the Sierra Club love affair with McGrady never wavered. Yuck.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.