Ashvegas Political Hit List Extra: 2014 primary election takes down two Buncombe incumbents


Tuesday night’s primary election brought a couple of big changes for this “mid-term” year: Buncombe County District Attorney Ron Moore was roundly beaten by challenger Todd Williams in the Democratic primary, and Buncombe County Commissioner David King lost to challenger Miranda DeBruhl in the Republican primary. The other contests on the ballot pretty much followed form.

The other big story was the the problems with the N.C. Board of Elections’ website, which is the go-to place for results. More on the website glitches in a minute.

Moore, who has served 24 years as district attorney, ran on a platform of experience and efficiencies he’s brought to office. He also criticized Williams for a lack of experience. Williams, a public defender, ran on a platform of restoring integrity to the DA’s office and blasted Moore for mishandling a high-profile murder case and not being more open about an Asheville Police Department evidence room investigation.

The Moore-Williams race showed a division in the Buncombe Democratic Party between more mainstream voters and those falling more toward the “progressive” wing. Moore lined up endorsement after endorsement from prominent local judges, Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan and others. Williams was backed by Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger and a slate of other local elected officials. The progressives, who lost a battle just a couple of weeks ago to get their candidate, Veronika Gunter, appointed to fill the unexpired term of N.C. Sen. Martin Nesbitt, were especially energized (Terry Van Duyn won that appointment). Moore’s campaign felt like “too little, too late.”

In the King vs. DeBruhl race, I have to confess that I know nothing about DeBruhl. I surmise that King’s campaign was damaged by his involvement in the dust-up earlier this year between N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt and his challenger, Brian Turner. King brokered a meeting between the two that triggered a controversy over exactly who said what. King was a first-termer.

The big statewide race was the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Thom Tillis, the North Carolina speaker of the House, beat back seven other challengers and will move on to face Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in November.

Adding to the election night drama was the issue with the results appearing on the N.C. Board of Elections website. WSPA reported that Henderson County officials said the website reporting system was just three days old. The Charlotte Observer quoted a expert who called the problems an “epic failure.” More:

The first results posted on the state’s web site showed that all precincts were in, even though the first returns were only for early voting and absentee ballots.

At one point Tuesday night, the listing of precincts in which vote totals were complete vanished from the Web site.

Josh Lawson, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said the initial display of precincts reporting on the board’s website incorrectly included numbers for absentee ballots, causing the number of precincts reported to be inflated.


Tim Peck May 8, 2014 - 10:49 am

A lot of things were damaging to Commissioner David King re-election bid (such as his junket to France), but his involvement in Turner’s cynical and ineffective political fraud was not one of them.

theOtherBarry May 8, 2014 - 11:07 am

That’s certainly the spin that an employee of Rep. Moffitt’s would choose to spread. Don’t want other Republicans getting the idea that backing him up whenever he gets caught “joking” will be bad for their political futures.

roo May 8, 2014 - 5:14 pm

Pretty sure Rep Moffitt’s poison outside of his own gerrymandered district. Nothing in the District 3 vote contradicts this. Moffitt is peddling ideas that benefit Moffitt and his friends, not the state, county, and certainly not the city of Asheville. It’s a tough sell. My heart bleeds for him.

luther blissett May 8, 2014 - 6:22 pm

Is that an official statement, Mouthpiece? Or just another smear outsourced for plausible deniability?

(At least we get to see how quickly people get thrown under the Moffitt Bus once they’re no longer of use.)

luther blissett May 7, 2014 - 6:15 pm

The Moore-Williams race showed a division in the Buncombe Democratic Party between more mainstream voters and those falling more toward the “progressive” wing.

More a case of a division between those who approach the criminal justice system from the lock-’em-up side — sheriff, judges, cops, etc. — and those who wanted to step back and reassess things in the wake of Bobby Medford’s reign of terror, the APD evidence room scandal, and Moore’s conduct in the Walter Bowman case.

Elected DAs who campaign on locking people up are pretty hard to beat until they gain a reputation for turning a blind eye on cops with itchy trigger fingers and locking up the wrong people.

Matt May 7, 2014 - 7:05 pm

Well put!

NFB May 7, 2014 - 9:24 pm

I would also suggest that the race might have started out as mainstream vs. “progressive” but with Williams winning by more than 2-1 he ending up picking up more that just the progressive vote. I haven’t seen a breakdown of the vote by precinct but with Williams winning 68% he had to be running very strongly in areas outside the Asheville City limits.

Another factor, in addition to the ones mentioned in the above post, was that a lot of people thought Moore had simply worn out his welcome. He was first elected DA in 1990 when he an incumbent in the primary. That incumbent had been in office for 16 years and Moore said that this was too long. Moore has been in office for 24 years and wanted to make it 28. People were also ready for somebody else.

Murphy May 7, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Perhaps Kings’ loss is a foreshadowing of a Tim “Muppets” loss in November!

NFB May 7, 2014 - 3:32 pm

A nice thought, but given that King lost to someone running to his right that may be a bit of a leap.

Matt May 7, 2014 - 7:25 pm

NFB is right, Murphy. King was a rather centrist republican. His loss is unfortunate for us progressives. Debruhl is super conservative compared to him.

King actually spoke out about environmental concerns and voted on them. I really appreciated that.

Debruhl seems to be running on pure ideology. I’d love to be wrong, but so far anything I’ve seen from her is void of any specifics.

luther blissett May 7, 2014 - 11:32 pm

The Moffitt-Turner thing made King look like a moderate and temperate Republican who didn’t really understand that local Republican politics is now in the hands of careerists like Moffitt and ideologues like the Asheville Tea Party.

DeBruhl’s “issues” page makes her look completely vacuous.

Apparently not backing Mike Fryar for Vice-Chair was a terrible, terrible thing, even though Joe Belcher also voted for Ellen Frost.

Nate May 8, 2014 - 10:24 am

Wow, that page is kind of stunning. Apparently the only real complaint she bothered to make was that King occasionally voted with the Democrats. No discussion at all of the merits of ANY of the issues voted on, just apparent anger that he would ever consider voting with the majority. Have any Democrats declared yet to run against her in the fall? I have a bad feeling that if she wins she’s going to have a tendency towards knee jerk opposition to almost any spending, and will be contrary as much for the sake of being contrary as anything else.

NFB May 8, 2014 - 12:51 pm

No Democratic candidates ever filed to run for this seat. Thus, Debruhl was elected to this seat on Tuesday. It’s done. Over. She has this seat for the next four years.

NFB May 7, 2014 - 12:09 pm

Another problem with this new Board of Elections website is that it offers absolutely no information on which precincts are reporting and offers no breakdown of results by precinct. The old website did both.

theOtherBarry May 7, 2014 - 4:22 pm

Called the Buncombe BOE, and the answer appears to be that the State BOE dropped the contract they had with an outside company that compiled things like precinct breakdown in real time, and posted them immediately. The ‘results’ page we see now is actually run by the state itself, instead of an outside vendor, and so the precinct breakdowns won’t come until after ‘canvas’ which is next Tuesday.

NFB May 7, 2014 - 4:36 pm

I’m glad to know that they will eventually be up. Many thanks!

theOtherBarry May 7, 2014 - 5:16 pm

You’re welcome. When in doubt: Blame Raleigh.

NFB May 7, 2014 - 9:25 pm

“When in doubt: Blame Raleigh.”

Works for me!

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