Ashvegas Political Hit List: A look back at the ’14 May primary


By James Harrison

What a week it was! For this week’s Hit List (late edition) we’ll not get too bogged down in political analysis, instead offering a quick roundup of the midterm and a few other items.

Williams scores over Moore

The biggest local story this week was Todd Williams’ complete and utter defeat of District Attorney Ron Moore in Tuesday’s primary. Moore, who had served in the position for 24 years, was trounced by Williams, a fellow Democrat, by a margin of more than 2-1. Williams, who campaigned on a progressive platform of reforming the DA’s office, won in the majority of precincts across Buncombe County, according to this recap in the Citizen-Times. Williams’ win is huge for progressive Democrats in the area, who will now be setting their focus on Brian Turner’s efforts to unseat state Rep. Tim Moffitt in November. Except for one thing―

Scales emerging from shadows

The outcome of the primary battle between Moore and Williams was extra-high stakes, because no Republicans had announced candidacies for the DA position. That all changed the day after Williams’ victory, as word leaked that Ben Scales, a “well-known Asheville attorney,” had already begun mounting a write-in campaign to have his name placed on the general election ballot in November. So it looks like Williams won’t be coasting to the DA’s office after all.

King gets the boot

The other shakeup in local races was Miranda DeBruhl’s unseating of County Commissioner David King. DeBruhl, a Republican and political newcomer, scored 59 percent of votes cast in the race, easily defeating King. A nurse and small business owner, DeBruhl was the only candidate to prevail against an incumbent in three commissioner’s races. Commissioners Brownie Newman and Ellen Frost (both Democrats) saw success in their bids for re-election.

Tillis outlasts Republican foes

While progressive Democrats may have won big in Asheville, the GOP establishment was celebrating a major victory across the rest of North Carolina. Somehow, with millions of dollars in backing from outside groups, and even with the last-minute endorsement of Mitt Romney, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis was able to stave off a field of challengers to win his party’s primary outright. The field included “dragon slayer” Greg Brannon, who had the backing of Rand Paul—along with the majority of Republicans in Buncombe County. Voters in the area awarded Brannon a 43 percent tally in the primary, which was enough to make him the highest vote-getter in the race locally. Tillis’ win led DC insiders to mark up the forthcoming race between him and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to “pure toss-up,” and award Hagan with the distinction of having the “Worst Week in Washington.” Buckle up for an expensive, raucous dogfight for six months.

Governor pushes teacher pay

This week, the governor announced a new version of his plan to increase teacher salaries—and this time the raises extend to all teachers. The suggested changes include an average 2 percent raise to all veteran teachers—a group which had been excluded from previous pay changes announced by the governor. State Budget Director Art Pope told reporters the governor would ask for $265 million in next year’s budget to pay for the increases, but according to a Raleigh News and Observer report, neither Pope nor McCrory offered any indication of how they planned to pay for it. All this comes as the state is projected to face a $445 million revenue shortfall when the fiscal year comes to a close on June 30. Good thing members of the General Assembly are scheduled to return to Raleigh for short session next week!

McCrory bids Duke adieu

In other McCrory news, it was revealed this week that the governor has sold off the remainder of his stock in Duke Energy Corp. The sale comes months after the utility’s nasty coal ash spill into the Dan River, which increased focus on the governor’s ties to the company, where he worked as an employee for nearly 30 years. According to a Charlotte Business Journal report, a spokesman for McCrory said the sale was made with the intention of eliminating “repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks” against the governor’s policies and experience with the company. The timing seems right—it comes a week before McCrory’s set to introduce new legislation addressing the handling of coal ash disposal at facilities across the state.

That’s all for this week! See you next Friday.

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


Tim Peck May 13, 2014 - 12:25 pm

“Williams’ win is huge for progressive Democrats in the area, who will now be setting their focus on Brian Turner’s efforts to unseat state Rep. Tim Moffitt”

The difference being that Brian “1%” Turner will have to convert his City of Asheville campaign into a District 116 win. Not an easy task given his secret taping of David King and his frivolous ethics complaint.

May the best man win.

Tim Peck May 12, 2014 - 10:07 am

“the governor would ask for $265 million in next year’s budget to pay for the increases”

Thankfully, the governor doesn’t make law and doesn’t have to pay the bills. It is his privilege to pose as sugar daddy and make over-broad promises for photo opportunities. In the meantime, the adults in the legislature still have the legacy of profligate Democrat policies to repair. Onward.

theOtherBarry May 12, 2014 - 2:56 pm

Rep. Moffitt’s spokesmodel says to expect a big “No” to raises for teachers, blames Democrats. We can expect his boss and Speaker Thom “Divide and Conquer” Tillis to follow suit.

Will those local Republicans who tried to hold a “non-partisan” education event over the weekend feel like they were lied to? They will if they have half a brain.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that his proposed budget will include raises for all public school teachers, giving veteran teachers an average raise of 2 percent, while other state workers would get a $1,000 pay increase.

North Carolina has put a freeze on teacher pay for the past six years with the exception of a 1.2 percent raise in 2012, dropping the average pay to 46th in the U.S.

The plan would give salary increases ranging from 2.8 percent to 4.3 percent starting July 1 for teachers with eight to 12 years of service, with an average 2 percent raise for those with at least 13 years.

Advocates at the forum Thursday said they were approaching the proposal with cautious optimism.

Libby Kyles, a fifth-grade teacher with Isaac Dickson Elementary, said raises were a start, but raising morale among teachers will be the real challenge.

And how will morale be when even that paltry raise gets yanked away by the mean spirited “adults” in the NCGA?

theOtherBarry May 10, 2014 - 11:52 pm

“In other McCrory news, it was revealed this week that the governor has sold off the remainder of his stock in Duke Energy Corp.”

But, huh – what about…

“The filing shows McCrory continues to own more than $10,000 in Spectra Energy, a natural gas company that Duke spun-off in 2007.”

So he sold off Duke stock when it got too embarrassing, but he’s keeping his investment in Spectra, which controls a major natural gas pipeline across the eastern US… and happens to have a connection in Eden NC.

Coal is soooo last year. But fracking, now that’s where the smart money is going. And a smart investor in a state where fracking is about to be legalized, and who is in a position to help make that happen… could really clean up owning part of the natural gas infrastructure.

Mike May 12, 2014 - 3:17 pm

Yeah, I don’t know how public figures with real influence can even own investments outside of a ‘blind trust’. Seems like a huge conflict of interest at the least and a very significant case of insider trading.

theOtherBarry May 12, 2014 - 7:39 pm

Welcome to the NCGOP.

chett May 10, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Incumbents (Democrats and Republicans) are all in for a very rude awakening this mid term

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