This week’s Hit List begins on a somber note, with Thursday’s news of the passing of long-time state Sen. Martin Nesbitt.
Nesbitt’s death came 10 days after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and one day after he returned to Buncombe County in an ambulance escort. The senator, who was 67, had stepped down from his position as Senate Minority Leader on Monday. He was welcomed home by friends, supporters and fellow officials who put aside party allegiances to greet him in Swannanoa.
Nesbitt, described as a “titan” of Western North Carolina politics, was appointed to his first House term in 1979. Over his career, he served 11 terms in the House and five in the Senate.
On Friday, Gov. Pat McCrory ordered flags at state buildings lowered to half staff in his honor.
Connector vote imminent?
Brace yourself—the process for approving one of the biggest road-building projects in Western North Carolina’s history could be voted on this month. News broke this week of city and county officials working quickly to agree on a resolution stating their preference of plans for a new I-26 connector. Work on the resolution, which faces a March 31 deadline, is being hurried because of N.C. DOT’s new prioritization policies. For more details, read the report on developments here on Ashvegas.
Nothing to do
In other city news, City Council members announced the cancellation of their March 11 meeting, due to a “light agenda.”
County backs Moogfest
Following the lead of City Council, members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted this week to grant $90,000 in funding to next month’s Moogfest event. The 5-2 vote fell on party lines, with all Democrats offering support. The two Republican Commissioners, Mike Fryar and Joe Belcher, expressed concerns regarding use of taxpayer dollars for a festival promoted by a private company. During the meeting, Moog Music and Moogfest president Mike Adams told the group he expected the festival to net approximately $238,000 in tax revenue. For full details, see this report in Mountain Xpress.
McCrory counters coal ash catastrophe
Fallout from last month’s coal ash spill on the Dan River continues to haunt Gov. Pat McCrory, who worked at Duke Energy for 29 years prior to entering politics. This week, the story made A1 of the New York Times, with a report describing the episode as “a huge embarrassment” for the Republican governor. To compliment the negative headlines, an environmental watchdog group has also purchased airtime for a new ad attacking the governor on his policies related to the spill.
Meanwhile, McCrory spoke to a newspaper at-length for the first time since the spill about his tenure working at Duke. In an exclusive interview with the Greensboro News-Record, the governor described the company’s “lack of a plan” regarding coal ash ponds as “disappointing,” and spoke to how his time working at Duke Energy impacted his political philosophy. Read it here.
Senate horses at the gate
With the deadline for filing past, the field is set for this year’s Senate primaries. A full bakers’ dozen of candidates will vie for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. For the next two months, all eyes will be on Republicans, especially front-runner Thom Tillis. Tillis, who is currently North Carolina House Speaker, was the focus of an in-depth report by the Raleigh News & Observer this week, regarding his rise to politics. The report included a quote from former Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower, who described Tillis as a “political opportunist.”
New ad from Tillis
Despite opinions of his fellow conservatives, Tillis is hoping voters will view him as an American success story. That’s the gist of a new ad released by the candidate this week, which underscores his experience as a paper boy and short order cook.
That’s all for this week! See you next Friday.
Martin Nesbitt was a good man and a good public servant. He will be missed.