Local Primary Races Show Fear & Distrust


By Leslee Kulba- This election season evoked memories of Miles Copeland. Back in the 1970s, Copeland wrote a number of books on declassified CIA information. He had ranked high in the agency, specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He often told of tensions between the intelligence community and state departments. One particular concept the state department had problems grasping was that leaders often fill the vacuum created by the collective expectations of society. That is, the ousting of a dictator would typically be followed by an ascendant dictator unless a mighty change could be wrought in the tumblers in a huge number of minds.

That said, it is sorry that as a free people, we are looking toward an oligarchy of a few popularity contest winners to do all the heavy lifting for the nation. In Buncombe County, as elsewhere, the big thing the candidates are promising is a stronger economy. Rather than looking at root causes and individual responsibilities for something as fundamental for human survival as having enough to eat, the vast majority of politicians are conflating gifting tax breaks for crony campaign contributors with job creation and dreaming up magical ROI’s.

Another big campaign thing was trying to get free money from state and federal government. The Reverend Barbour got folks riled up about shifts in the state education budget, claiming state and federal contributions to overhead were essential for basic education. And, statewide, political activists told themselves they were defending the oppressed by calling racist anything that threatened the existing power structure.

It’s a sea of whining dependency, where people want a comfortable existence without effort. People want a worldly messiah to feed their wants, but they don’t quite grasp that bit about sacrifice. If Peter has to suffer pain, or just exertion, to get enough for somebody to rob for Paul, it needs to be hidden from view and written off as an evil scheme of the Koch brothers.

You Schmooze, You Lose –

The local Republican Party has a reputation for being like the reality TV show “Survivor.” There is only enough room for one Republican in the county, so to be the one, any aspirant must devour the competition. One could almost expect the ugly ads coming out of dog-eat-dog Republicans, but at least they focused on legitimate role-of-government concerns this time.

It is no secret that big-party Republicans represent an internal inconsistency. The party platform advocates for limited government. That’s what the wise Founders wanted, because they knew a taste of power had a way of casting an intoxicating and addictive spell. This year, the rift between the go-along-to-get-re-elected Republicans were again seriously challenged by back-to-basics groups. Whether or not the latter chose to flock or be identified with the TEA Partiers, the intentions are still the same.

This election cycle, the old rift between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney Republicans trickled down to the local level. A search for candidates went out. Changing to district elections had gotten Republicans on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, but the board had somehow changed the Republicans into government-as-usual zombies.

Ads scathed District 3’s David King for granting General Electric, one of the world’s five wealthiest corporations with its own lending division no less, special real estate deals and tax breaks. King was further faulted for accepting a trip to France to celebrate GE’s receipt of taxpayer dollars. Miranda DeBruhl agreed to run against King, standing for the Republican platform.

King, meanwhile, justified his votes for tax hikes stating that the bulk of county business is state- and federally-mandated. According to the county’s Budget & Management Services Director Diane Price, only 8.1 percent of the county’s budget is discretionary. King argued he was not going to cut teacher and police pay. But politicians typically put things most dear to the voters on the chopping block while trying to tuck the fat and bloat of political favors into government’s plus-sized girdle. DeBruhl countered she would have voted against payouts, direct or indirect, to GE and Moogfest.

DeBruhl captured 59.07 percent of the vote, and King collected 37.24 percent. A third candidate, Lewis Clay, was, much to the surprise of many voters, also on the ballot. The voters have put Joe Belcher, the other commissioner from District 3, on notice.

No surprise was Brownie Newman’s landslide victory over perpetual also-ran Keith Young in the District 1 commissioners’ race. Newman, and his sidekick Holly Jones, are the local Democrat Bobbsey Twins, having served together on both Asheville City Council and now as Buncombe County Commissioners.

This reporter happened to run into Newman outside a West Asheville precinct and asked if he had a comment. Jokingly, Newman pantomimed a villain and said, “Not that your readers wouldn’t consider HORRIBLE!” Asked what he would do if re-elected, which he was not yet ready to take for granted; Newman said he would focus on improving relations with the city, something that is not happening quite well. He said he wanted to advocate policies that made sense. To illustrate, he brought up the recently-created Parks and Recreation Authority. Its whole purpose was to eliminate redundancies and lower overhead, but by the time it passed the General Assembly, any coordination with other governments had been eliminated, and so there was just another hierarchical level doing what the county had already been doing.

Another hot issue will be connecting pieces of greenways. This will make cyclists happy and also get them out of the way of motorists. Newman is particularly interested in developing the River Arts District. Another thing he would like to improve is the county’s land use policies. He said the planners are encouraging developers to push their plans to unreasonable extremes, and he wants that to stop. Newman won with 72.99 percent of the vote.

[As an aside, Newman asked if I was there to vote. I said no. I was registered in south Asheville. I was just walking the boss’ dog, who I was trying to get to roll over and play dead so she could vote.]

Over in District 2, former commissioner Carol Weir Peterson put her name on the ballot perhaps only to keep incumbent Ellen Frost in the limelight with candidate interviews during primary season. Frost won easily.

Bigger Leviathans to Fry –

At the national level, winds of change were halfway fluttering. Before the last election cycle, President Obama promised to fundamentally transform the nation, treating as cud the document that would prevent accumulation of too much power in one place, if honored and followed. He, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid offered Democrats enough rope in the form of crackpot policy to hang themselves, but they only clamored for more. While politicians complained about individual desperados coming across the border seeking refuge, Socialism, in modern parlance public-private partnership, had sashayed in on a red carpet rolled over the Gadsden flag. Leadership was not content to protect liberty. It wanted to get its greedy little fingers in the pies of the financial, automotive, and healthcare industries.

In some parts of the nation, the Spirit of Liberty was alive enough to kick the bums out; but the change was too small to fundamentally un-transform the nation. Non-RINO Republicans stabbed government cancers like Obamacare with their steely knives, but they just couldn’t kill the beast. As they tried, Obama said he’d rule the nation with his iron pen and phone.

NC Senator Kay Hagan’s seat became a national target for interests seeking a balance of power sufficient to turn this ship of fools around. Hagan could have won her primary with her eyes closed, while eight Republicans lined up to be her contender.

Leading the pack were Greg Brannon and Thom Tillis. Brannon early on received endorsements from famous people like Rand Paul and Ann Coulter. Talk host Glenn Beck even said he had a man crush on him. Brannon quoted the Constitution like he meant it, opposing government’s “top-down, one-size-fits-all” panaceas. He spoke realistically about the national debt. He even dared to use phrases like “personal liberty” and “property rights” in complete sentences with real-world applications.

Brannon beat Tillis 43.06 to 39.65 percent locally; but Tillis won the statewide election with 45.69 percent of the vote to Brannon’s 27.14. Tillis was viewed as an establishment Republican, but supporters said that wasn’t such a bad thing. As speaker of the NC House, Tillis is credited with conducting the orchestration of reforms that are expected to lighten the income tax burden on working-class families and did actually boost the state’s business climate reviews by leaps and bounds. Tillis describes himself as a supporter of the free market, acknowledging that government does not create jobs. He has also sworn he will do all he can to repeal Obamacare.

Though he talked a straight line, Tillis was supported by Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and other establishment guys. In the days leading to the primary, Tillis flooded mailboxes with glossies for name recognition.

Paving the way for Hagan, though, could be the spoiler. On the Libertarian ticket, there was only one race. Sean Haugh and Tim D’Annunzio were vying for Hagan’s seat – well maybe. Haugh was well-respected for his intellect and public service with high-ranking positions in the state party, but his campaign was a little weird. He campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and peace, but added a third plank – beer. Campaign videos featured him at a kitchen bar, covered in bottles. He even acted a little drunk as he mocked the weirdness of typical political ads.

His opponent, Tim D’Annunzio, was better known for being a loose cannon. While running for Congress as a Republican in 2010, he attacked radio host Keith Larson during an interview, accusing him of helping his opponent. On the air, he charged, “If we let deranged, demented people like you choose who we have for politicians, we’ll continue to have dunces and political hacks from here into the future.” The language got dirty, and D’Annunzio accused people who called into the program of being plants, and the screeners of being prejudiced.

This time, D’Annunzio took a different tack. He ran as a Libertarian, and announced that if he won, he would endorse Republican TEA Party candidate Greg Brannon. A self-made millionaire, D’Annunzio kept a cooler head this time, while stressing the importance of the Second Amendment, free-market principles, and abolishing Obamacare. Haugh and D’Annunzio split the 46 Libertarian ballots cast in Buncombe County evenly, but Haugh took 60.74 percent of the statewide vote.

Ta-Ra-Ra Boom DA!

Ron Moore in many respects was the ideal district attorney. Having served many years, he was hated and feared by bad guys. In seedier spots of town, he was seen as a crook for letting guys off for tattling on their buddies. Damaged consciences can also try to cheat a little ease out of putting the blame for one’s arrest on a corrupt system. People didn’t even want to talk about running against Moore for fear his monstrous machine would whoop the tar out of the skeletons in the closet.

But he lost, and he lost big-time. He must have seen it coming, as he had supporters in Ron Moore T-shirts distributing literature outside the polls.

In a landslide, challenger Todd Williams collected 67.63 percent of the vote. Williams ran on a campaign promising justice and transparency. Whereas Moore touted anecdotes; Williams listed endorsements by progressives with a high local profile like Asheville City Council members Gordon Smith, Cecil Bothwell, and Gwen Wisler and Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger. Williams won the admiration of local press agencies by supporting their attempts to obtain and publish findings in the audits of the Asheville Police Department’s evidence room after a lot of guns and drugs went walking. What may have satisfied public curiosity, may have compromised cases. Williams argued it was time for the DA’s office to rebuild public trust.

The moral of the story is, if you want to be high on the heap, get a maven to retweet your dork words.

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