The dust has settled, the smoke has cleared—are there any other idioms we can use? The week following the mid-term elections left us with no shortage of news. Buckle in, take a deep breath, gird your loins—here comes your latest Ashvegas Political Hit List.
Triage mode at APD
The city is in “triage mode,” as controversy continues to swirl around the Asheville Police Department. Last week, Mayor Esther Manheimer expressed concerns about leadership in the department, issuing some of the strongest words yet to come from an elected official on the situation. Later, news broke that the North Carolina Department of Justice is investigating the troubled department—a development which made headlines across the state. Buncombe County District Attorney-elect Todd Williams is staying out of the mess, but Asheville’s Fire Chief Scott Burnette is getting involved. Burnette, tapped by City Manager Gary Jackson, is heading a review of operations within APD, and has already begun to interview rank-and-file officers. For more, see this Citizen-Times report.
Buncombe goes blue
Last Tuesday was certainly interesting. While a GOP red tide swept across the nation and much of North Carolina, Buncombe County saw significant wins for Democrats in a number of races. Ashvegas featured reporting from both Democrat and Republican election night parties, as well as a detailed outlook on the new political landscape from reporter David Forbes. For another in-depth look at the “small sea of Democratic blue” in WNC and what it means, see this post from Mountain Xpress scribe Jake Frankel.
Democrats maintained control of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, with Ellen Frost defeating her GOP challenger Christina Merrill for a second time. Miranda Debruhl, the lone Republican to be elected to the board, will be sworn into the District 3 seat on the commission on Dec. 1, and will be the youngest woman to ever serve on the board. Debruhl is also the first Republican woman elected to the group since 1976. For more on her swearing in and upcoming agendas, see this Mountain Xpress report.
In what may have been the most expensive House race in the state this year, incumbent state Rep. Tim Moffitt succumb to his Democratic opponent Brian Turner. What does it all mean? Many were asking in days following the election, with some suggesting Turner’s personal approach may have won the day and others speculating that frustrated GOP voters may have abandoned Moffitt when he needed their support most. Will Moffitt seek a re-entry into politics? He’s undecided, he says. In a metaphor-laden video interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, the outgoing representative described his Buncombe district as the “far western outpost closest to the enemy’s base camp.” For maps detailing how the Moffitt and Turner performed around District 116, click here.
In the other big upset last Tuesday, Democrat John Ager beat incumbent state Rep. Nathan Ramsey by approximately 500 votes. Ager, who along with Ramsey is a farmer in Fairview, ran on a platform against recent measures taken by the Republican supermajorities in Raleigh. Along with Moffitt’s defeat, political watchers are also analzing this race’s outcome. For a recap on what might have caused Ramsey to lose, see this Citizen-Times report from Mark Barrett. And if you’re curious about how the votes exactly fell across District 115, you can view precinct maps for the district here.
Buncombe County may have seen a pair of its seats in the General Assembly go from red to blue, but that was nowhere near the case elsewhere in North Carolina. Across the state, Republicans easily retained veto-proof supermajorities, with a net loss of three seats in the House and a gain of one in the Senate. The lay of the land going forward into next session is Republicans leading 74-46 in the House, and 34-16 in the Senate.
After getting walloped across the state, North Carolina Democrats have already begun discussing how to refocus their efforts for future campaigns. Part of the conversation this week included former county commissioner Patsy Keever’s announcement that she would run for chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. The election is in February.
Despite the GOP wave, Gov. Pat McCrory told a Raleigh news station he hoped his party would “govern with humility.” The governor also filed a lawsuit against House and Senate leaders Thom Tillis and Phil Berger, questioning their creating commissions and appointing leaders outside the realm of his executive power. Former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin also signed their names to the lawsuit. For more on the legal action and how it pertains to efforts regarding coal ash, see this News & Observer report.
Back for more
State lawmakers might head back to Raleigh by year’s end, if McCrory decides to push a new package geared at providing incentives for big-time employers seeking to base their businesses in North Carolina. According to this report from Raleigh news station WRAL, the governor’s motive is rooted in the possibility of some companies making location decisions before the General Assembly begins its next session on Jan. 28 next year.
Did you hear? U.S. Reps. Patrick McHenry, Mark Meadows and Virginia Foxx are all headed back to Washington, after coasting to their respective re-elections. As you were.
McHenry on the rise
A report from McClatchy’s Washington bureau was spread far and wide across the state (and nation) this week, profiling U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry’s ascent to leadership within Republican ranks. The piece, which describes McHenry as a “regular guy in a not-so-regular job,” offer’s an in-depth look at how the congressman is perceived by his peers on Capitol Hill. McHenry, who represents the eastern portions of Asheville and Buncombe County, will continue his role in the House as Chief Deputy Whip—a post he assumed following this year’s House leadership shakeup after the surprising primary defeat of U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor. The post is considered the No. 4 slot in the House.
Tillis takes the cake
The party’s over. Give yourself a pat on the back—you survived the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history. At the end of the day, more than $110 million was spent on the contest between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and her victorious Republican opponent Thom Tillis. Across the state, analysts were attempting to decipher the vote, and determine how Tillis could have defeated Hagan despite strong polling in the incumbent’s favor down the stretch. In the Western part of the state, the vote was largely in favor of Tillis. In his first press conference as Senator-elect, Tillis sought to strike a moderate tone, emphasizing his hope to return to North Carolina and tell voters about “the bipartisan things” lawmakers had done. By the end of the week, Tillis had traveled to Washington check out his new digs—where Hill watchers were already speculating that the senator-elect could potentially become a deal broker when he arrives next January.
She may have lost, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it. Talk is already bubbling of a bid by outgoing Hagan against Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in 2016. For real.
Burr of secrets
Speaking of Burr, with Republicans in control, the senator announced this week his intent to seek the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr, who is the No. 2 Republican on the panel, is hoping to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. His decision to pursue the post means he’ll likely give up his current slot on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, which he could have also had the chance to chair.
North Carolina may well be the nation’s hottest new swing state, and pollsters are only getting started with their attempts at gauging attitudes of voters going into 2016. In the most recent Elon University poll, conducted last month, results found an overwhelming majority of Democrat voters favoring Hillary Clinton as their party’s candidate for president, and a smaller majority hoping Republicans would field Mitt Romney again.
Other items of note:
— A helpful compilation of the most recent campaign finance reports for WNC state legislators and their opponents, put together by Jon Elliston at Carolina Public Press.
— Radio coverage from WCQS on aforementioned list.
— Ready for 2016? Attack ads are already on the air.
— North Carolina is the nation’s most competitive political state, The New Republic says.
— North Carolina could decide the next Senate, Politico says.
See ya next week!