Candidates are preparing to run for the first-ever district elections for Asheville City Council following the approval last year of a controversial state law that created districts for City Council and moved elections scheduled for this year to 2020.

Kristen Goldsmith, a Buncombe County Democratic Party precinct official, has an election website up and issued a press release this week announcing her run.

Goldsmith’s campaign will focus issues including affordable housing, public transit and economic development built around jobs that pay a living wage, Goldsmith said in the press release. She plans to kick off her campaign with a 6:30 p.m. gathering on June 20 at HomeGrown West on Amboy Road.

Here’s more background on the issue of district elections for Asheville City Council:

-In 2017, N.C. Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Henderson County Republican, submitted a bill that called on Asheville City Council to draw districts for six City Council members, leaving the mayor to be elected citywide. Asheville City Council ignored the law and set a referendum on the district election issue, a referendum in which 75 percent of voters rejected the idea of district elections.

-In 2018, Edwards came back with a bill that created five districts for Asheville City Council seats, with a sixth seat elected citywide and the mayor’s seat elected citywide. The bill also moved Asheville City Council elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years. That effectively extended, by one year, the term of every person currently on City Council. (A pay-walled Asheville Citizen-Times story here includes a map of the districts.)

-Since the passage of the district election bill, some Asheville City Council members have said they were considering a legal challenge to the law. In a Blue Ridge Public Radio interview in March, Mayor Esther Manheimer said the city’s decision had been delayed by the departure of its city attorney. Also in March, city officials announced that Brad R. Branham had been hired to replace former city attorney Robin Currin.

-Some city residents this year have called the Asheville City Council districts an unfair gerrymandering. They’ve asked City Council to challenge the district election plan in court. A January 2019 story by David Forbes at Asheville Blade lays out that argument. The story has some good information about Mayor Manheimer’s questions about a legal challenge to the districts, and about her hesitancy to challenge the date change of City Council elections.

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