Ashvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.By James Harrison

Redistricting mattered

In case you needed another reminder why district lines matter, here it is. The Associated Press revisited the 2012 elections in North Carolina this week, and took a look at the effects of new boundaries drawn by lawmakers in the General Assembly. They found some pretty interesting facts. Did you know Democrats in House races scored 2.2 million votes, which was 81,000 more than their GOP opponents? Did you know Republicans won nine seats and Democrats only four? Lawsuits challenging the way lines were drawn are pending in the state Supreme Court.

I-26 looking better, or just OK?

Last month’s efforts to push a plan for a new I-26 connector may have paid off. New figures released by the state this week place the project at 37th among 339 on the state’s priority list, but the same numbers put widening I-240 in West Asheville at 131st. Will the priorities have any effect on work to overhaul the infamous interchange any time soon? Wait and see.

Road woes

Speaking of roads, do you enjoy your experience on the roads around Asheville? Because you’re paying for them, to the tune of $900 per driver annually. At least that’s the figure released this week by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation organization, who largely chalked the cost up to traffic congestion and mediocre road conditions. According to the group, bad roads and traffic jams equal more vehicle depreciation and fuel consumption. All the more reason to buy a hovercraft.

Buncombe boosts Bizworks

County Commissioners are giving $50,000 to Mountain Bizworks, who plans to use the cash for a new microloan program. The group voted 4-3 along party lines to approve the grant, which will be paired with an additional $300,000 in grants from the Federal Small Business Association. Since its founding, Bizworks has loaned more than $7 million to local startups, several of which have gone on to find success. Mountain Xpress reporter Jake Frankel has a rundown of the meeting here.

Nesbitt seat filled

What a night it must have been. After three rounds of voting, Buncombe County Democrats elected Terry Van Duyn to fill the seat left vacant last month by the death of Sen. Martin Nesbitt. Van Duyn, a well-known political activist, was the first among six candidates to receive 51 percent of the vote. Following her victory, party members voted once more for her to be on the November ballot.

Moffit-Turner meeting rears its head

Remember this whole thing? February’s meeting meltdown between state Rep. Tim Moffitt and his Democratic challenger, Brian Turner, was back in the news this week. Moffitt, who acknowledged asking Turner to withdraw from the race but denied offering him a state job as a reward for doing so, asked the state board of elections to dismiss Turner’s complaint. Meanwhile, Turner handed over a recording of a phone call between him and County Commissioner David King, to prove statements made by Moffitt and King about Turner using the episode to boost his campaign the were false. Make sense? Anyway, the tape is 24 minutes long. You get a prize if you can make it through five of them.

McCrory calls for cuts

With three months remaining in the fiscal year, Gov. Pat McCrory is asking state agencies to slash their budgets. According to aRaleigh News and Observer report, the governor blamed the squeeze on $140 million in unexpected Medicaid costs, along with uncertainty regarding state tax collections. So where to cut? McCrory recommends travel expenses and limited salary costs.

One month left in GOP primary 

The end is in sight! Four more weeks and it’ll all be over, save for the whole general election part. So to go out with a bang, Karl Rove‘s super PAC, American Crossroads dumped a $1.1 million ad buy backing Thom Tillis on voters this week, praising his “North Carolina values.” But wait, there’s more—the ad will run through the May 6 primary! Guess that’s why the Washington Post, in a report on the onslaught of negative political ads in North Carolina, offered to forgive voters for turning off their TVs.

Karl Rove wasn’t the only one backing Tillis this week. In an interview with the Washington Post, Gov. Pat McCrory threw his weight behind the state House Speaker, stopping just shy of all-out endorsement. “From a political perspective, there’s no doubt in my mind that Tills has the best chance to win in the general election,” he said.

Finally, it appears the very ballot itself will be showing Tillis a little love this year. Because of a strange rule governing North Carolina elections, the candidate—whose name is last if the alphabetical order in the field of eight—will find himself at the top of the ballot on election day. The quirk is because ballot order, which is based on candidate last names, switches back and forth every two years between A-Z and Z-A. Studies have shown being at the top of a vote sheet can offer a candidate a slight advantage—and with a crowded GOP field Tillis will need every advantage he can get to avoid a runoff.

What happens next? Check back next week.

James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for Nooga.com, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.

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