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Battle for 3 Asheville council seats, mayor’s job to be decided on Nov. 7 s jjob
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 21:33

From Staff Reports 

In addition to choosing Asheville’s mayor and three members of City Council, voters will cast ballots in the Nov. 7 municipal general election to show if they favor splitting the city into six districts.

The mayoral candidates include incumbent Esther Manheimer and challenger Martin Ramsey.

For council, six candidates advanced in the Oct. 10 primary, including one incumbent, Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, who finished third. 

Vijay Kapoor finished in first-place — by a wide margin (1,500 votes more than his closest competitor) — in the primary.

In order (based on primary votes) the other council candidates include Sheneika Smith, Wisler, Dee Williams, Rich Lee and Kim Roney. Among the six council candidates, the declared socialists include Smith, Williams and Lee. However, it was Williams who won the endorsement of the Asheville Democratic Socialists of America at a Sept. 13 event. 

As for the referendum, it is a defensive maneuver initiated by current council members. On July 25, they responded to new state legislation that would change the way members of council are elected.

The mandate to split the city into districts for council race is being imposed by the Republican-dominated state General Assembly as a way to get South Asheville representation on council and, according to Democratic critics, a way to get Republican representation on council. Currently, all members of council are Democrats, and in recent years, that party has always held a strong majority.

Since South Asheville is largely Republican, legislators believe that district elections would result in the election of at least one Republican to Asheville’s council. No candidate from South Asheville has been elected to council since 2005.

In the Oct. 10 primary, however, Kapoor of South Asheville, a Democrat, finished first in a 12-way race that selected the top six city council candidates to run in the general election for three seats.

 The law, introduced by then-state Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson; and later pushed over the finish line by his successor, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson, this June, ordered council to amend the city charter and divide Asheville into six districts. A Nov. 1 deadline was imposed and met.

 The law further requires the city to establish district lines by Nov. 15, an assignment Manheimer said will be considered after the results of the referendum are tallied.

 If the city adopts district elections, willingly or unwillingly, the plan is to have residents of each district elect one council member to represent them in future elections. The mayor will continue to be elected at-large.

 City Attorney Robin Currin has said she is not going to divulge the legal strategy behind the referendum.

The ramification of the referendum is questionable, various city political observers have noted, because — short of Asheville filing a lawsuit challenging the change in the law and then winning — this will mark Asheville’s last at-large election in which all of the city’s eligible voters may cast a ballot for any of the council candidates. 



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