Ashvegas Political Hit List: The countdown to primary election day edition

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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By James HarrisonAshvegas: The City You Love. The News You Want.

First things first—early voting is underway! Voting began across Buncombe County on April 24, and will go on till May 3. Voters have been weighing in on a number of races, from County Commissioners’ contests to the heated election for District Attorney. For a complete list of voting sites and a sample ballot, visit the Election Services website, here.

With only four days remaining before election day, this week’s Hit List will take a different order than usual—focusing on primary races first, and moving down the line..

Let’s start with the king daddy of them all—the Republican Senate primary.

GOP candidates down to the wire

The hot air in the state’s hottest race reached its peak this week, with Gov. Pat McCrory throwing his official endorsement behind Thom Tillis, an action which comes as no surprise. Tillis, who served as House Speaker during the governor’s first year, had already been the recipient of kind words from the state’s top official—but the “McCrory bump,” if it exists, may be enough to push Tillis over a key threshold. To avoid a runoff, candidates in the race need to net at least 40 percent of the vote, and recent polling shows Tillis closing the gap right when he wants to be. To win the hearts of Republican voters on the fence, Tillis has notably shifted emphasis on campaign, focusing more on social conservative issues (according to a Raleigh News & Observer report). Meanwhile, his GOP competitors are doing all they can to force another election. Dr. Greg Brannon, who ranks second to Tillis in recent poll numbers, called in the big guns this week—announcing an event with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in Charlotte next Monday. If the “Paul bump” is enough to force Tillis and Brannon into a runoff, the happiest clam in the state will arguably be U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who will be able to breathe for a couple more months while watching Republicans feud over who’s more conservative.

Hagan misses the mark

Speaking of Hagan, one of her recent ads made Politifact, a popular fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times. And it’s pretty much false! We won’t bore you with the content of the senator’s message, but it’s at least entertaining to see how far her campaign will go to skewer Tillis, who hasn’t even won his party’s nomination yet. And don’t worry, Tillis had one of his ads ring “mostly false” not too long ago as well. All eyes are on this race, and how Hagan’s campaign will respond to the challenge. A recent New York Times report sums it up: “If Ms. Hagan cannon broaden her political appeal, it is not clear she can win a midterm election in North Carolina.” Hagan’s biggest appeal will likely wind up simply being the Democrat on November’s ballot. Despite recent changes to the state’s voter ID law, election-watchers have suggested the law may have an unforeseen effect—spurring Democrats to register more voters and get them to the polls. Ballot numbers for early voting are already up—indicating a healthy turnout this fall.

Dems vie to challenge Meadows

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows may be barely halfway through his first term in Congress, but two Democrats are already clawing for the chance to be next to him on November’s ballot. Odds are Tom Hill, a Henderson County Democrat, and Keith Ruehl, a Barnardsville firefighter, will wind up having their candidacies become footnotes after Meadows coasts to a second term in the deep-red 11th District. But Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Jon Ostendorff dutifully reached out to both candidates, to report on why they’re running. If you subscribe, you can read his stuff on Hill and Ruehl by clicking the links.

Read up on Commissioner’s races

They may not be as charged as other races on the ballot, but three seats are up for grabs next week on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Mountain Xpress reporter Jake Frankel issued questionnaires to candidates in District 1, District 2 and District 3, offering voters a chance to see where they stand on pertinent county issues.

Turner touts campaign moolah

Although there’s no primary for this year’s race for the state House District 116 seat, candidates are already on the prowl for any chance to show advantage. This week it was Brian Turner’s turn, who is running as the Democratic nominee against state Rep. Tim Moffitt. Turner touted having raised $150,000 in campaign fuel so far (including an $11,000 chunk of personal cash), and blasted Moffitt’s support of recent changes to the state’s tax code. Meanwhile, Moffitt is laying low, declining to respond to any of Turner’s criticism. We get the vibe it’s only a matter of months until Moffitt’s campaign and GOP allies ramp up attempts to “nuke” Turner (his words, not mine). We’ll wait and see.

McCrory tours storm damage, polls low

The governor was out east this week, meeting victims of tornados in Chowan and Beaufort Counties. McCrory, who made a surprise stop in Asheville for Moogfest last weekend, shied from reporters in order to privately meet with affected families. Meanwhile, a new Elon poll shows the governor’s approval rating holding steady among North Carolinians—with 35 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving of his job.

James Harrison recently returned to Asheville after working as a government reporter for, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Follow him on Twitter at @jharrisonAVL.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Murphy May 2, 2014

    I find it interesting that Rand Paul would appear with someone (Brannon) who has been accused of plagiarizing significant portions of his campaign website from Paul… himself, accused (and rightfully so, of doing the same)… birds of a feather?

  2. theOtherBarry May 2, 2014

    Oh please let it be Dr. Greg “Democracy is socialism” Brannon.

    1. RHS May 2, 2014

      Be careful what you wish for.


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