Vijay Kapoor rode muscular support from South Asheville voters to finish in first place in Asheville City Council elections Tuesday and will join a fellow newcomer, Sheneika Smith, and incumbent Gwen Wisler, who finished second and third, respectively.
Mayor Esther Manheimer waltzed to re-election over her challenger, Martin Ramsey.
The election results were remarkable on a number of fronts. Kapoor is the first Indian American elected to serve on Asheville City Council. Smith’s election means that City Council will, for the first time, have two African-American residents as representatives as she joins Councilman Keith Young. And the vote totals, while they still must be officially finalized in coming days, show the highest turnout among voters in a city election in at least the last two council elections.
The anti-incumbent, anti-district elections streak: Broadly speaking, voters were motivated by an anti-incumbent streak, which we saw take hold in the 2015 election of three newcomers, and a clear desire to vote against a district election plan for Asheville City Council. (The district election plan for Asheville City Council is mandated by a state law approved earlier this year, but the city is mulling a challenge in court. With 75 percent of city voters saying “no,” they’ve got new cannon fodder.)
Development concerns and a social justice conversation: There continues to be a general unease about the pace of growth and development in Asheville, which also activated voters across the city and helped Kapoor, who spoke directly to those issues. There’s also been an ongoing conversation in the city over the past few years about social justice issues, which Smith elegantly appealed to. Finally, concerns about government transparency and spending range true for some, especially in light of the ongoing investigation into Buncombe County government’s manager, and Wisler has been particularly adept at addressing those concerns.
What will change with this new Asheville City Council: There likely won’t be any major change in direction for City Council, with each council member representing some form of progressive politics. Conversations about growth and development, social justice issues, transparency and spending will all continue apace. Asheville City Council is a staunchly liberal body and will remain that way for now.
History holds: Historically speaking in Asheville City Council elections, the top three finishers in the primary election almost always go on to win in the general election. That was true again this year.
The vote totals:
Vijay Kapoor: 10,491
Sheneika Smith: 9,170
Gwen Wisler: 8,387
Kim Roney: 6,801
Rich Lee: 6,276
Dee Williams: 4,663
What does Kapoor’s election, and the fact that he won with so much South Asheville support and yet the referendum was *still* defeated, say about Edwards’ core argument for redistricting? Turns out all that was needed to get a South Asheville resident on the Council was having one actually run, and work his butt off to get elected.
True, but the incumbent city council member won behind both newcomers, and that was after seeing an incumbent with significant name-recognition (Cecil Bothwell) rather spectacularly unseated in the primary.
Anti-incumbent streak? Both incumbents on the ballot Tuesday won, with the Mayor getting re-elected with over 80% of the vote.