The party’s almost over. This time next week, we’ll know the outcome of the season’s various elections—barring the dreadful prospect of a recount. In this week’s Hit List we’ll start with some local bits, then cut to the juice you’re really after—election buzz. Let’s roll.
Asheville’s fight to retain its water system has caused the city to rack up legal fees in excess of half a million dollars in recent months—a bill which is being paid by water customers. In a Citizen-Times report, state Rep. Tim Moffitt said he thought city taxpayers ought to be footing the bill, since some water customers actually live outside city limits. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer disagreed, saying that fees being solely absorbed by city residents was inappropriate because the issue was related to the system at-large. Manheimer also said the decision to charge customers for legal fees was a choice made at the city staff level. According to a recent estimate, Asheville’s water system is valued at over $177 million, which Manheimer said justifies the cost of the city’s legal efforts.
The Asheville Police Department now faces a serious review, as City Manager Gary Jackson announced plans for an investigation following weeks of turmoil within the department. The focus will come in two parts—with private contractors evaluating the department’s “efficiency and effectiveness,” and city Fire Chief Scott Burnette carrying out any recommended changes made by the consultants. Police Chief William Anderson said he welcomed the review, after a meeting of the Public Safety Committee Monday.
Meanwhile, some have begun to wonder if the controversies involving APD have been played out in favor of political gain. According to the Citizen-Times, the director of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association said city Councilman Cecil Bothwell emailed the group and asked it to “back off” with it’s complaints against the department until after this week’s election. The group is considering taking legal action against the councilman. Speaking to the paper, Bothwell said he did, in fact, ask the association to back off, but added that he sensed a political tone in the allegations against the force.
“Meet me at SECU Plaza?” We can all text it to each other soon. Last week, city council members voted unanimously to approve the sale of naming rights of a Pack Square plaza to State Employees Credit Union, for a mere $1.5 million. Approval of the deal, which will be good for 30 years, came following a fair amount of pushback from the council, which voiced concerns about being left out of the process for arranging the sale. For a full rundown of the meeting, read this Mountain Xpress report from Jake Frankel.
John Boyle over at the Citizen-Times took note today of a mailing that when out last week that appears to try to shame people into vote. The letter, which shows a bar graph comparing the number of times a person has voted to the average number of times that person’s “community” has voted, was signed by Patsy Keever of Asheville. Keever, a former Buncombe County commissioner, is now first vice chair of the state Democratic Party.
Some voters report that they’re offended by the letter and especially it’s final sentence: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why you let your community down by failing to vote.” Keever, in response to Boyle, apologizes for the letter and says the goal was simply to have people get out and vote.
One week after Thom Tillis changed his tune on expanding Medicaid, Gov. Pat McCrory made headlines by re-emphasizing his willingness to consider the option. The Associated Press reported last week the governor is reassessing the possibility of expanding the program next year, and added that state DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos is preparing to present him with expansion options. Looks like it’ll be a big-ticket item for next year’s session.
Candidates for Commission District 2 met at Warren Wilson last week. Mountain Xpress reporter Jake Frankel has a report detailing the meeting between Christina Merrill and Commissioner Ellen Frost, which took place at the epicenter of 2012’s controversial contest between the two. Last go-round, Frost was able to win by a mere 18 votes.
Final stretch in state Senate races
Spending in the battle for District 116 was on pace to top $1 million last week, the Citizen-Times reported. The race, which will be one of the most expensive on the state-level this year, has been garnering attention from political groups across North Carolina. While more than $200,000 of state Rep. Tim Moffitt’s funds has come from political action committees, his Democratic challenger Brian Turner has declined PAC money. For a helpful analysis of the most recent batch of ads from the Moffitt and Turner campaigns, see this Citizen-Times report by Mark Barrett. Meanwhile in District 113, the race between Democrat John Ager and Republican incumbent state Rep. Nathan Ramsey is turning out to be much closer than many would have predicted. Spending for that race so far is a nearly combined $700,000 between the candidates, with much of it being spent on advertising (like this new ad from Ager which was released last week). The amount is more than double what was spent in the district’s last race, in 2012.
Candidates for the state’s 10th Congressional District met for the final time last week, on the campus of UNCA. For a recap of the debate between U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry and his Democratic challenger Tate MacQueen, click here (long story short—they disagreed on just about everything). You can also watch the debate in full, here.
Early voting numbers
Numbers released Sunday by the State Board of Elections show more than 1.1 million North Carolinians took advantage of early voting last month—nearly 20 percent more than the last mid-term election in 2010. The numbers of early Democratic voters heavily outweighed the tally of Republicans who showed up, but does it indicate enough support to swing any races? Guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, the high turnout caught the attention of national scribes, with a report focusing heavily on North Carolina being featured in the New York Times (it includes a nice shot from a polling place in Asheville).
Haugh comes clean
Political watchers across North Carolina were first introduced to Sean Haugh as the craft-beer loving pizza delivery guy who might swing the Senate race. But after a video interview of Haugh was released online this week, the Libertarian candidate from Durham will likely be remembered as the marijuana-smoking, craft-beer loving pizza delivery guy who might swing the Senate race. In an interview with the web series Bills and Brews, Haugh admitted to smoking weed, and played a round of skee ball with the host.
Hagan-Tillis final showdown
Congrats guys, we did it. Or to be more accurate, they did it—the individuals and groups who have sunk more than $100,000,000 into the North Carolina Senate race between U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and state House Speaker Thom Tillis. Let that sink in for a second or two: one hundred million dollars. The most expensive U.S. Senate campaign on record. According to this report from the Associated Press, roughly 70 cents of every dollar spent has come from outside groups hoping to swing the race (and remember, those groups are not allowed to coordinate in any way, shape or form with campaigns, wink). Some of those ads continue to catch national attention down the stretch—particularly one sponsored by a Democratic PAC that Republicans have labeled as “race baiting.” No matter to Tillis, who in one of his final ads, attempts to strike a sincere and honest tone with undecided voters. “It’s been a long campaign, and a rough one,” he says. Aw, shucks. Both Hagan and Tillis were in Asheville last week, with the Senator making a stop at Edna’s on Merrimon Avenue, and Tillis swinging by his local campaign office.
Stop being mean
The final bit in this week’s Hit List comes courtesy of a third grade student in Wake County, who may have written the best takeaway from this year’s most grueling, uninspiring campaign. The Raleigh News and Observer published a letter written to Hagan and Tillis by Carson Park, a student at Vance Elementary school in Garner, N.C., who invited the candidates to be more respectful in their tones. “Seeing the ads on TV makes me sad and I don’t want to vote,” Park wrote. Too bad he’s too young to be on the ballot.