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Asheville Mayor Manheimer wins reelection, Buncombe voters pass bond measures

Mayor Manheimer stands third from left with a "vote Esther" in front of her and 5 of 6 city council members on her sides. They are standing outside with trees in the background.

Esther Manheimer was elected to her third term as the mayor of Asheville Tuesday night, according to unofficial election results from the state Board of Elections. First elected mayor in 2013, Manheimer defeated Kim Roney, a progressive independent serving her first term on the Asheville City Council.

This was the closest vote in Manheimer’s three mayoral campaigns. After winning 81 percent of the vote in 2017, Manheimer’s margin Tuesday was about 8% or about 3000 votes.

While the race is technically non-partisan, Manheimer campaigned to the ideological right of Roney, as a moderate, practical Democrat, touting her collaborative credentials and bonafides as an established city leader. She was endorsed by the five other City Council members.

In a candidate forum this past spring hosted by BPR, Manheimer didn’t offer specific new policies or proposals for a third-term agenda but cited achievements under her watch around homelessness and affordable housing, equity and reparations, public greenways and increased pay for police and other city workers.

“During my time on council, we have built out a robust box around affordable housing,” Manheimer said during the forum. “I do recgonize the challenge that a city has, that it cannot do it alone, but we have tried to leverage every single opportunity we possibly can.”

Manheimer and Roney elaborated on their policy positions in candidate questionnaries for BPR.

Roney, in her first term on the Asheville City Council, had gained support among younger voters. She sought to distinguish herself around three core issues: housing affordability and accessibility, a comprehensive approach to public safety and open meetings transparency.

“If we’re going to address these open and heavy issues faving our community, we’re not going to get there by having the conversation behind the scenes and then coming out to the public and trying to sell the public on an idea,” Roney said about transparency during the forum. “The open meetings policy is about reducing barriers to participation while securing participatory democracy.”

As the endorsed candidate of NC Democratic Party, Manheimer alone appeared on the party’s guide ballot that many voters brought with them to the polls. This made a difference for Esther Slater of Asheville, who cast an early vote last week at the North Asheville Library.

“I’ve been out of the country for a month, so I’ve not been following everything, so I’m going to follow this,” she said, holding up a sample ballot of candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party.

Voters also elected three new city council candidates, following a field of 11 who competed in the primary and six who were on the general election ballot.

The top three candidates include Maggie Ullman Berthiaume with 21,033 votes or 21.36%, Antanette Mosley with 19,549 votes or 19.85%, and Sheneika Smith with 17,488 votes or 17.76%. Coming in four, fifth and sixth respectively are Allison Scott with 14,855 votes, Nina Tovish 13,825 votes, and Andrew Fletcher with 10,832 votes. Smith and Mosley were the only incumbents on the ballot.

Two Buncombe County bond referendums easily passed. More than 78,000 or about 69% of voters voted “yes” on the $30 million “open space” to support conservation of open spaces and greenways. It will cost households about $14 per year for 20 years.

More than 70,000 voters or about 62% approved the $40 million housing bonds referendum which will increase construction of housing for people with moderate to low incomes. It will cost households about $18 a year for 20 years.

Catherine Komp joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in September 2020 as the organization’s first Director of Content, leading BPR’s talented team of local journalists and content creators, overseeing national programming and facilitating collaborations and engagement initiatives.