A former news reporter’s election advice to you

I'd like to offer a few observations and opinions about the upcoming City Council election. My thoughts are based on my experience writing about the Council and city issues during my tenure several years ago as a reporter for Mountain Xpress.

During that time I was continually amazed by the level of passion displayed by the public on the controversial issues of the day. Back then the hot-button issues were the Water Agreement, I-26, development guidelines, the Civic Center … you know, the stuff we still talk about but never seem to resolve. But despite the public's penchant for passionate rhetoric, it dumbfounds me every two years when so few bother to cast a vote in the Council election — an election determining the leadership of the level of government that most directly impacts our lives. Opinions and complaints, it seems, are easier to cast than ballots.

I urge you to vote this year. The aforementioned issues still dog us, and nipping at their heels are a recession, unemployment and the pressing need for cities to push for sustainable, environmentally responsible policies. For mayor I'm voting to reelect Terry Bellamy. Backed by a progressive Council, I believe she will be able to move this city forward. To help give her that progressive Council, I'm voting for Cecil Bothwell, Gordon Smith and Esther Manheimer. At candidate forums, all three have provided concrete solutions to complex problems, solutions grounded in progressive ideals. Weighing heavily on my decision was Robin Cape's write-in campaign. She has served her city well, but politics is a combination of idealism and pragmatism. Cape's record is commendable, but her candidacy is not viable. I must move forward and support candidates that represent our best chance of moving this city in the right direction.

— Brian Sarzynski
Asheville

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20 thoughts on “A former news reporter’s election advice to you

  1. Reed

    Your logic is a little baffling. You say that Robin Cape “has served her city well” and “her record is commendable” but that her candidacy is “not viable”. (Is it your touted experience writing about City Council that allows you to make that judgment?)An incumbent who has a commendable record and has served her city well is not viable? Is that because she is a write-in? How elitist- Surely you think more of Asheville voters than that. I would wager that a lot of them can actually figure out how to fill in that circle and write “Robin Cape” on the line! In my opinion, the more candidates we have that travel paths other than the usual, “machine-approved” ones, the stronger our city and our democracy will be. Here’s hoping we have more viable write-in candidates in the future.

  2. Specifically on what grounds is Robin Cape’s candidacy “not viable”? You seem to have left out this important part of your argument. You know, substantiation?

    I would suspect that you are using presumptive rhetoric to discredit Robin Cape in the hopes of minimizing her chances for the sake your favored candidates.

    Did I get that right?

  3. Teresa

    I think you may have something there, Tim. I’m amazed at how fast the enlightened ones become dispensers of conventional wisdom (“write-ins don’t win”) when it serves their purposes.

  4. Bystander

    Robin Cape, along with Esther Manheimer and J. Neal Jackson, was endorsed by the Asheville Citizen-Times this past Sunday. That seems to indicate viability, dontcha think?

  5. I am still not convinced that Cape is viable. However I do think she will do better I have previously predicted. Where I had previously thought it was impossible for her to pull out a victory, I now think it is possible, just not very probable and here is why.

    In 2005, Waterbury, CT with a population of just over 100,000 elected a write-in candidate for Mayor. The mayor-elect won with a whopping total of 8,000 votes. Michael Jarjura was the incumbent mayor and had lost to a primary challenger after spending $150,000. He then mounted a write-in campaign for the general election spending an additional $100,000. He ran 100 commercials a day for ten days leading up to the election. Two thousand people came to his open houses to see how to cast a write in vote demonstrating size of his support base.

    How many people have given money to Robin? What type of turnout has she had for her events? Has her base of support changed since she was elected with large numbers 4 years ago? The answers to these questions will provide some better insight than my speculation.

    Other factors to consider. Cape road a progressive wave of high spirited voters in 2005 with Holly Jones, Chris Pelly, myself, and Kieth Thompson on the ballot. Robin’s campaign had volunteers from at least 3 campaigns helping push people to the polls to vote for her. There was also a tight race between Bellamy and Dunn with the opportunity to pick up an additional seat do to a vacancy. This year there is not nearly the buzz about the election to drive turn-out. We have also seen the two incumbents on the primary ballot get trounced, leading me to believe that voters are ready to move on and get new voices in the council chambers. In low voter turnout elections incumbents generally do better. The last factor to consider is that at least 2 of the top 3 candidates are not supporting Cape.

  6. Bryan writes: “The last factor to consider is that at least 2 of the top 3 candidates are not supporting Cape.”

    To solicit your speculation further, why do you think 2 of the top 3 candidates are not supporting Cape?

  7. Politics Watcher

    Are any of the candidates doing any polling? Or is that too expensive?

  8. Piffy!

    [b]I think you may have something there, Tim. I’m amazed at how fast the enlightened ones become dispensers of conventional wisdom (“write-ins don’t win”) when it serves their purposes. [/b]

    Or how someone on the complete opposite side of the fence from a write-in candidate could actually think he is fooling anyone.

  9. Piffy!

    [b]To solicit your speculation further, why do you think 2 of the top 3 candidates are not supporting Cape? [/b]

    Because they know it will split the vote, maybe?

  10. jeff turner

    as a county person who won without spending a dime,all i”ll say is it very possibile for that lady to win..and in her case …probable,which begs this question,what percentage of incumbants,do actually win another term..?the percents for asheville alone would be an interesting.. side

  11. Anonymous but interested

    You mean split the votes you consider YOURS, don’t you Cecil?

    Unless EVERYONE is voting for the same person, every election to some degree is about splitting the vote, isn’t it? Isn’t that the idea behind this election: people “splitting their votes”, ie voting for 3 different people? Or maybe you would prefer to just pick a slate and inform the unwashed masses of what we are to do. That’s not how democracy works, and it sure as hell isn’t progressive.

    I am a liberal democrat, but I think all points of view should be represented on council or in any governmental body. I don’t want a row of rubber stamps meeting every Tuesday evening just going, “What he said!”. I want debate and pushback so balanced solutions that work for everyone are arrived at.

    (And since Bryan Freeborn lost last time around, I guess that’s why he is so concerned about vote-splitting too. With these guys, it really does seem to be all about them.)

  12. Sure, I would be one of the splitees.

    Four progressive candidates discussed this eventuality in March and agreed that if there were four progressives going into the general the fourth place finisher would drop out to avoid the 2007 effect. One mind apparently changed. stuff happens.

    I don’t consider any votes “mine.” I am campaigning for a cause, not to elevate myself. It is the same cause I campaigned for in the Cynthia Brown campaign and the Howard Dean campaign, the same cause I created Rolling Thunder Asheville for … grassroots democracy, the voice of the people taken broadly versus the voice of moneyed interests functioning narrowly. The cult of personality that has subsumed issue politics is doing no one any great good. So, I’m for my cause and for candidates who seem headed the same direction. If I had come in fourth in the primary against three other progressive candidates, I would have endorsed them and dropped out. Period.

    There are matters far more important than being anointed as a leader.

    In response to the voice of the people expressed in the primary, I endorsed Esther Manheimer and Gordon Smith, both of whom share my commitment on multiple progressive issues. IMHO, people have fine reasons to vote for Robin Cape, she has been good on several issues during her term. But I think they should do so understanding that there is a pretty high likelihood that the splitting of progressive votes will help Carl Mumpower retain his seat on Council.

    And the reason I believe that Cape has the lowest odds of succeeding is that write-in votes in city elections have virtually never been successful, nationwide. Nothing against Robin, it is simply history.

    When I first decided to run for Council I spoke with Robin and told her I looked forward to serving with her … long before she dropped out of the race. If she pulls this off, I’ll still be happy to work with her for the good of this community.

  13. Jon Barnard

    I, for one, am glad to have more than three progressives to choose from. That’s because in Asheville there is a great difference in views about development among those who call themselves progressives. There are progressives like Brownie, who again and again stress the importance of increasing density in Asheville–and thus encouraging compatible development. And then there are others who seem quite simply anti-development. Since research by the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, the Brookings Institution and so forth have shown repeatedly that increasing density in central urban areas is a key way for Americans to reduce their contribution to global warming, I call these anti-urban-development progressives “psuedo-sustainables.” When I cast my ballot, I’ll be looking to vote for true environmentalists, so I’m glad to have more choices.

  14. Jon, I agree.
    Confusing the issue in this race, a bit, is that four of us were endorsed by the Sierra Club and I believe that at least six candidates have called for higher density development.

    I know when asked at one forum which city we believed would be a good model for Asheville, I answered Manhattan because residents there have the lowest average carbon footprint of any citizens in the country. Not that we want to emulate everything there, but the walkable neighborhoods, clustering of services, easy access to transit and high density all contribute to that low impact.

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