Ashvegas Political Hit List: Van Duyn preps for Raleigh, race for DA heats up, McCrory touts tax reform

Jason Sandford

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

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tillis_meddling_2014By James Harrison

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.

Welcome to the latest installment of the Political Hit List!

For new readers, we’ll start by rounding up the week’s coverage of local government news, then expand to look at what’s happening in the state and federal realms as it relates to your representatives. If you’re searching for the latest dirt on North Carolina’s increasingly nasty U.S. Senate primary, scroll to the bottom of the barrel (and hold your nose while you’re down there).

Affordable housing mandate?

There was no Asheville City Council meeting this week, but that didn’t stop members of the group from gathering to discuss ideas for ensuring affordable housing for Asheville residents. The issue has been getting a lot of attention in the press lately, and Tuesday’s meeting found participants discussing the idea of imposing an affordable housing mandate on new developments in town. Mark Barrett with the Citizen-Times has a full, albeit paywalled, report on the discussion here.

DA debate gets lively

Right now, the hottest race in town is the Democrat race for District Attorney. Voters will decide between two candidates, incumbent DA Ron Moore and his challenger Todd Williams on May 6 (there are no Republican candidates, so primary winner takes all). Last week, Moore and Williams met in their first debate, and spent significant time sparring over the handling of a sealed audit relating to the 2011 “evidence room scandal” at the Asheville Police Department. Reporter Jon Elliston with Carolina Public Press was there, and has a rundown of back-and-forth. There’s also video of the debate on CPP, and a full transcript for the reading-inclined over at Mountain Xpress.

Van Duyn preps for Raleigh

Do you know the woman who is set to become your new state senator? Terry Van Duyn, who was recently elected by Buncombe County Democrats to fill the seat left vacant by the late Sen. Martin Nesbitt, heads to Raleigh for the short session in May. Citizen-Times reporter Jon Ostendorff penned a profile on Van Duyn last weekend, offering insights on her background, volunteer efforts and political involvement. Among the nuggets—Van Duyn will be the only sitting senator to have been arrested for protesting at one of the recent Moral Mondays.

North Carolina’s rising stars

If you survey the political landscape in North Carolina, who stands out? Unfortunately, no one from Asheville or Buncombe County. At least that’s the take of MSNBC‘s Luke Russert, who anchored a segment on the topic while hosting “The Daily Rundown” this week. Watch it here.

McCrory celebrates Tax Day

The day dreaded by pretty much all of us was a big one for Gov. Pat McCrory. On April 15, our beloved Tax Day, the governor touted his reforms to the state’s tax code, and claimed once more that the changes would revive the state’s economy to the benefit of North Carolinians far and wide. This of course invited rebuttal from his critics, who argue that the changes will benefit only wealthy taxpayers and actually cause the average worker’s tax burden to increase.

In other McCrory news, the governor also announced a plan this week for addressing conditions at the state’s coal ash ponds. The proposal comes three months after 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River, putting a laser-focus on the issue and McCrory’s ties to Duke Energy. The governor’s suggestions include closing at least four of Duke’s coal ash facilities, including one right here in Asheville. You can read a full report on the plan here in the Charlotte Observer. 

Genius gerrymandering

This may interest you—the slick new “explainer” website ran a feature this week on gerrymandering. And what state, you ask, is among the top-five most-gerrymandered state’s in the country? That’s right. “This is a very successful partisan gerrymander,” reads a description of district lines in North Carolina, recently drawn by the GOP-supermajority General Assembly.

Senate race mayhem

Let’s get the important fact out of the way first—only 18 days till the primary fracas is over. Can you taste it? Maybe the better question would be—can smell it? Things are getting kinda gross.

With less than a month weeks remaining before the GOP primary, Democrats entered the ring. This week, they targeted candidate Thom Tillis with an ad accusing him of condoning affairs between staffers in his office and lobbyists during his time serving as Speaker of the House. The move is significant not only because of it being one of the slimiest ads of this year’s cycle, but also because of its mirroring a tactic employed by Democrats in tight-necked GOP Senate primaries in other states. The campaign for U.S. Sen Kay Hagan is on board, shelling out its first ads of the cycle to hit Tillis on the same subject. Tillis responded to the attack with an attempt to raise money, and released an ad of his own accusing Democrats of “meddling” in the primary.

In other ad news, GOP candidate Mark Harris was also out with a new advertisement of his own this week, which you can seehere. It’s more positive, perhaps it will cheer you up.

And now for some developments on the fundraising side—both Harris and candidate Greg Brannon revealed new info about their first quarter fundraising hauls this week. Harris said he raised nearly $400,000 in the time period, while Brannon announced his campaign had achieved a total of $1.1 million raised since he entered the race. Neither of tallies come close to the $1.3 million raked in by Tillis over the last three months. But will the be enough to force a runoff?

Not interested in ads or fundraising? Last Sunday’s New York Times had a good primer on where things stand overall in the GOP primary. You know it’s a big deal because it was featured on A1.

Thanks for reading! See you next week.

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. Aaron Sarver April 21, 2014

    Independents may select a Democratic ballot in the primary, but registered Republicans will not be able to cast a vote in the District Attorney race this May (early voting begins April 24).

  2. WH April 21, 2014

    I started out being with Matt, but wound up somewhere else.

    Bothwell’s been the most helpful member of City Council for me, so when he got behind Williams I paid attention. I’ve also had several people tell me what a nice guy Todd is. After watching the debate, I too felt Williams was vague and couldn’t answer all of the questions head on, and Moore seemed to have a good grasp on everything.

    Several debate responses floored me:
    -Williams said he wouldn’t release the evidence room audit either

    -Moore looked Williams in the eye and told him he wasn’t qualified, and Williams didn’t rebut that. Then Moore did it again the next morning at the Democratic County Convention all over again – and no pushback at all from Williams. If you told anyone on City Council they weren’t qualified, they’d have jumped down your throat with pages of qualifications.

    -Williams, looking and motioning at Van Duncan, said he didn’t want to get in Van Duncan’s way as the DA, but Duncan’s backed Moore. So, it would appear to me that Moore’s not in Duncan’s way. Why would a challenger tell the Sheriff he would do things differently when the Sheriff must feel they’re done the right way now? That whole exchange was very awkward.

    Plus, the last time I heard someone running on the platform of restoring integrity and dignity to the office, the whole country wound up in two wars in the Middle East.
    People keep assuring me that Todd’s a nice guy, and a fun guy, and I’m sure they’re right, but others also tell me Moore’s a good guy.

    I respect everyone else’s conclusions, but for me, that debate pushed the needle over to Moore.

    1. Harry April 21, 2014

      I’m sure Todd is a nice, fun guy. But, I want a qualified DA with balls of steel. I want one who will work with law enforcement to keep criminals off the street and make Buncombe county a safer place to live. Ron Moore is that DA. This election transcends party lines. I’m a staunch conservative. My old man is flipping around in his grave knowing I’m voting for a democrat, but it’s the right call for me.

      1. Matt April 21, 2014

        I think a difference here, Harry, is that when you say ‘safe’ you mean from citizens who break laws.

        When I say ‘safe’ I mean from overzealous hardliners who aren’t held accountable. (not saying Moore is that, but not saying he isn’t either. I just don’t know.)

        Just like you don’t want a soft system that lets “criminals go free”, I don’t want a hard system that ignores the individuals rights or the community’s rights to a transparent local government. I want a system that respects the challenges of minorities living in poverty, and can work with that somehow, without just coming in with ‘balls of steel’.

        I want a system that is creative, and humanistic, not just ‘balls of steel’. ‘balls of steel’ can antagonize and create as much criminal activity as it addresses.

        I hope whoever we elect does a fine job of finding the balance.

        I think it’s awesome to see a defense attorney applying for DA position, and i’m more hopeful about his ability to bring a more thoughtful approach, and less concerned about him not having 25 years experience being ‘tough’.

        1. Harry April 21, 2014

          Best I can tell, Ron Moore has followed the law. He’s done a tremendous job ass DA. Contrary to what you and Bothwell think, the last thing the men and women in blue want is a kinder, gentler DA. Cream Puff’s going to lose in a landslide. Remember, you heard it hear first.

          1. NFB May 6, 2014

            It was a landslide, alright, but it wasn’t “Cream Puff” who got his ass handed to him on a silver platter!

            Williams defeats Moore in a 2-1 smack down!

  3. Matt April 20, 2014

    I watched the debate and Williams indeed seems clunky and new and full of vague idealistic notions, and Moore’s detailed knowledge and experience level with the position is evident.

    However, Williams also seems to have some very good progressive values that I think can get more specific when he gets into place. He’s also got the backing of Bothwell, among other public figures that I generally align with.

  4. Harry April 18, 2014

    Williams’ debate performance was horrible. Ron Moore really took him to school. Want to see more criminals on the street instead of behind bars? Vote for milk toast Williams.

  5. NFB April 18, 2014

    “Right now, the hottest race in town is the Democrat race for District Attorney.”

    That is the Democratic race, not the “Democrat race.”

    1. Unaffiliated Voter April 23, 2014

      (nothing ‘democratic’ about them, it’s all about stealing your freedoms and THEIR uberCONTROL of YOU, the INDIVIDUAL)

  6. Sean April 18, 2014

    Just a reminder for Ashevegas’ readers:

    The A C-T paywall isn’t really a paywall. It’s more of a tax on the technologically unsavvy.

    To circumvent: Use Incognito in Chrome OR Use an add-on such as ‘Forget Me’ (for Chrome) OR use any browser add-on that clears site-specific cookies.



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