Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows abrupt retirement announcement Thursday opened the floodgates for his fellow Republicans to announce their candidacies for the seat in the final hours before Friday afternoon's filing deadline.
Eleven Republicans will run in the March 3rd primary for the North Carolina 11th Congressional District seat. Three announced on Thursday, the day of Meadows' announcement. Haywood County businesswoman Lynda Bennett was first. Later in the day, she was followed by state senator Jim Davis and Chuck Archerd. Then on Friday in the final hours before the noon filing deadline, eight more candidates jumped into the race, including Meadows' current deputy chief of staff Wayne King. Other Republicans declaring include Dan Driscoll, Joey Osborne, Steven Fekete Jr., Dillon S. Gentry, Madison Cawthorn, Matthew Burril, and Vance Patterson.
The Democratic field for the seat also grew Friday morning with a twist from a familiar candidate. Phillip Price, the 2018 Democratic nominee in the 11th district, filed his candidacy, raising the number of Democrats running to five. What makes his decision extra noteworthy is that just two days earlier on Wednesday evening, Price announced he wouldn't run and instead endorsed Michael O'Shea at his campaign kickoff in Asheville according to the Smoky Mountain News. But that event took place just hours before Meadows announced he would not run again. Other Democrats running for their party's nomination are Gina Collias, Moe Davis, and Steve Woodsmall. Libertarian Tracey DeBruhl and the Green Party's Tamara Zwiniak will run for their party's nominations unopposed.
Meadows, first elected in 2012, is widely rumored to take a job within the administration or campaign of President Donald Trump. He's been one of the president's most vocal supporters in Congress, and previously chaired the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus in the House. The 11th District he represents was also redrawn by court order after it was ruled Republicans in North Carolina illegally gerrymandered Congressional district maps in the state for partisan advantage. All of the city of Asheville and Buncombe County will be in the 11th in 2020, whereas currently both are split between the 10th and 11th districts. The changes improve the chances a Democrat would win the seat, but Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper said Thursday the 11th is a 'leans Republican' district now instead of a 'certain Republican' one following the line changes and Meadows' retirement.
ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL
At the close of filing on Friday, ten candidates filed to run for Asheville City Council in 2020. One of the last to file was current councilman Keith Young, who will be the lone incumbent in the race. Joining him on the ballot are Kristen Goldsmith, Kim Roney, Tim Collins, Shane McCarthy, Rich Lee, Larry Ray Baker, Sandra Kilgore, Sage Turner, and Nicole Townsend. City council elections are non-partisan. The 10 candidate filed will be narrowed down to six in the primary. Those who advance will then vie for three seats in the November general election. Asheville city council seats will be elected at-large in 2020 after the city council this year amended the city charter to ensure that, in defiance of a law passed in the General Assembly a year prior which mandated the election districts be used.
BUNCOMBE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
Incumbent Republican Mike Fryar is running for re-election in District 2. Should he defeat Anthony Penland in the GOP primary, he would face one of his fellow commissioners in the General Election thanks to redrawing of commissioner districts for 2020. Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara currently represents District 1 on the board, but must run in District 2 in 2020 because of the line changes. She's running unopposed in the Democratic primary. For the District 1 seat she's leaving, Nancy Nehls Nelson and Terri Wells are running for the Democratic nomination. The winner faces Republican Glenda Weinert in the fall. In District 3, incumbent Republican Joe Belcher will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Donna Ensley and Parker Sloan. The election for board chair will also pit two incumbents against each other, as Democrat Brownie Newman looks to win a second term. His Republican challenger will District 3 commissioner Robert Pressley, whose district seat is not on the ballot this year. A third candidate could be on the ballot in the fall as well, as Buncombe County TDA board member Andrew Celwyn is collecting signatures to run as an independent for board chair.