By James Harrison
With one week left till Election Day, stories are coming out of the political woodwork. Buckle in and relax, here comes your weekly whirlwind recap of all things local government.
Around the time last week’s Hit List was hitting your inbox, 44 members of the Asheville Police Department were making waves across the city↽signing and releasing a petition stating they have no confidence in the department’s leadership and handling of a host of recent problems. Among them—a WLOS investigation which revealed officers in the department had used faulty radar guns when issuing speeding tickets, a fact which later caused District Attorney Ron Moore to dismiss 230 infractions and promise to repay others. The woes also included Chief William Anderson’s citing a lieutenant for serving in the Army Reserves, along with new questions regarding the maintenance of the department’s storied evidence room. This led state Rep. Tim Moffitt to call for an investigation into officers’ complaints, while Members of City Council backed the chief (Councilman Cecil Bothwell went as far as to describe coverage of the issues and complaints as “reprehensible”).
The decision earlier this month by Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger to keep his office open and issue same-sex marriage licenses after hours drew criticism from county commissioners last week. Ultimately, the group voted to retroactively approve Reisinger’s decision. For a full recap of what went down, see this Mountain Xpress report.
It could happen. At their meeting this Tuesday, members of City Council will consider selling the naming rights for the small plaza located in front of the Asheville Art Museum to State Employees Credit Union. Asking price? $1.5 million. If the proposal passes, we can all tell our friends to “Meet me at SECU Plaza” next time we’re heading downtown. Sounds like a plan?
What’s the most important race to vote in next month? Arguably, it’s District Attorney. To know a little more about the post and the candidates vying for it, Asheville Blade editor David Forbes sat down for in-depth interviews with both Democrat Todd Williams and his independent challenger, Ben Scales. Brew up some coffee↽they’re kinda long.
Dem dominion in doubt
Will local Democrats be able to keep control at the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners? WCQS host David Hurand spoke with Mountain Xpress reporter Jake Frankel on the matter last week. Meanwhile, Citizen-Times reporters Mark Barrett and Romando Dixson have recent profiles of two of the higher-stakes commission races. For voters in District 2, Barrett has an in-depth look at the rematch between Commissioner Ellen Frost and her Republican opponent, Christina Merrill. Merrill narrowly lost the election in 2012—by a margin of 18 votes. Will she have enough support to unseat the incumbent? Meanwhile In District 3, Dixson surveys the matchup between Miranda DeBruhl and Nancy Waldrop, whose husband David King was defeated by DeBruhl in May’s GOP primary. There’s no Democrat running. For those interested in local politics, these are races to watch.
Last week candidates for a pair of state Senate seats met to present their positions on issues and debate one another. To read a detailed rundown of the meeting between District 49 candidates Mark Crawford and state Sen. Terry Van Duyn, along with District 48 candidates Rick Wood and state Sen. Tom Apodaca, see this Mountain Xpress report.
The big winners of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s annual hotel-tax-cash blitz were announced last week. Among the grantees—a ballfields project in Enka, the River Arts District and Highland Brewing Company. For the complete list of who got money and how much (along with who didn’t get any), see this post on Ashvegas.
Polls have only been open for a few days, but all signs are pointing to a high turnout for this year’s vote. By 4 p.m. last Thursday, more than 4,100 people had cast ballots at polling centers across Buncombe County. That’s almost double the amount that showed up on the first day of early voting in 2010 (the last mid-term). The pattern has shown elsewhere in the state—in Mecklenburg County more than 100,000 voters turned out on day one (the same amount as the first four days of voting in 2010). The vast majority were Democrats.
All-out airwaves assault
What a week in the campaign between state Rep. Tim Moffitt and his Democratic opponent, Brian Turner. The two met on air for a debate on the Pete Kaliner show last week, which you can hear by clicking here. For a recap, see this Citizen-Times report. In other District 116 campaign news last week, Moffitt dumped not one—not two—but three new ads slamming Turner on a number of fronts. Turner responded with an ad of his own—blasting Moffitt for “desperate” attacks instead of focusing on his own record. It’s also worth mentioning that news dropped this week of Turner’s raising $310,000 for his campaign, without taking any dollars from PACs or special interest groups. And last we heard—the two are in a dead heat.
Curious about the differences between 10th District U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry and his Democratic opponent Tate MacQueen? This Citizen-Times report has you covered. What about distinctions between 11th District U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and his challenger Tom Hill? Also covered. And for Asheville voters who reside in the 10th District side of town, McHenry and MacQueen are set to debate this week, on Oct. 27 at UNC Asheville.
Political hopefuls duking it out over Ebola, does it get any better? As we come down the final stretch, GOP candidate Thom Tillis is placing extra emphasis on a change in position made by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who announced her support of a travel ban on Americans traveling to virus-stricken nations in West Africa (she had recently opposed the idea). Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer reported this week that when it comes to expanding Medicaid in North Carolina, Tillis has changed his tune. Yes, you read that right↽Tillis, an avowed opponent of expansion in years past, says he would now “encourage the state legislature and the governor to consider it.” What could have possibly motivated this change?
Tillis and chair
Here’s an interesting one: After debating each other three times this fall, Thom Tillis appeared on another statewide news program this week, next to an empty chair. The chair represented U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who declined this summer to appear next to Tillis in what was promoted as a debate. Liberal commentator Rachel Maddow was furious with Hagan for not showing up—expect to hear more about this event in Tillis campaign spots to come.
State of hate
Meanwhile, North Carolinians continue to be drowned in political ads, most of them negative. On the airwaves, the Tillis camp released a new ad last week slamming Hagan’s family for profiting from 2009 stimulus grants. On the other end of the spectrum, former President Bill Clinton is now appearing in ads for Hagan. And here’s an interesting one: A group has thrown $225,000 into a campaign for Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh, encouraging young voters to support a progressive campaign centered on “More weed, less war,” instead of voting for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. The catch? The group has links to the Koch brothers, whose groups have poured out millions of dollars in support of state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Tales of the trail
And on the campaign trail, did you hear? U.S. Sen. John McCain’s been stumping for Tillis. Texas Gov. Rick Perry too, and former VP candidate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. What’s more? Mitt’s coming. Meanwhile, Hagan has gotten some recent support from former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. She also was visited by a pair of protesters at a recent rally who sought to draw attention to her stances on immigration. Hagan was also in Asheville last weekend, for the Democratic Party’s annual Western Gala. During her stop, she visited Blue Ridge Biofuels in the River Arts District. And here’s a weird one, if you’ve made it this far↽apparently Tillis’ campaign website was hacked last week by “Gum Tree Pokie Machine,” an online casino based in Russia. Indeed, this is a high-stakes race. I hope you’re getting your money’s worth.
See you next week.
-This story was edited Oct. 27 to correct the spelling of David Hurand of WCQS and correct the reference to DA candidate Ben Scales, who is not a write-in candidate; his name appears on the ballot.