Last-Minute Decisions: What Are Asheville's Democratic Primary Voters Thinking?

Feb 26, 2020

The ballot in North Carolina is very long this year - with every office from the presidency to city council up for election.  Over the next two days, BPR will speak with voters to get a sense of what will drive them to the polls for the primary.  

In downtown Asheville, down ballot races weren’t top of mind for many Democratic voters - but one candidate at the very top of the ballot was.  

This unscientific voter survey starts just down the block from BPR’s studios on Broadway. Nicole Krieger is outside a gift shop -- popular among tourists -- hanging up windchimes, like she does most mornings. 

Do you think about politics when you’re outside stringing things on trees?

“Umm, no, I think about the outside world,” Krieger said.

Which, on second thought, she says, does actually have to do with politics. She says concerns about the environment is the number one policy issue on her mind. 

“You have to put people into those positions who care as well and are going to make those decisions that can affect what can put us on a path  to a healthier outside world,” Krieger said. 

That’s why Krieger says she’s voting for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He has the track record she feels good about. 

“He’s been consistent, and he doesn’t do what a lot of politicians do, where they change to appeal to the moment. He’s been solid over time,” Krieger said. 

She’s also paying attention to at least one down ballot race -- Asheville city council. She says she’ll vote for Kim Roney and Nicole Townsend. 

“But the other ones, I just went off of friends’ recommendations, cause I hadn’t really done the research,” Krieger said. 

With federal, state, county, and local elected positions on the ballot, only one was consistently on the minds of the dozen or so voters BPR spoke to for this story -- the presidency. 

Also consistent with the downtown Asheville crowd -- Sen. Sanders’s popularity. He’s the frontrunner in the latest North Carolina polling data. The website Five Thirty Eight predicts he has a one in two chance of winning, higher than Joe Biden’s forecasted chance of one in four.   

21-year-old Clinton Lilly waits at the ART bus station to head to his job at TGI Fridays. 

Clinton Lilly, 21, says he's voting for Bernie Sanders with his coworkers on Wed.
Credit Cass Herrington / BPR News

Lilly also plans on voting for Sanders. He says he and his coworkers are planning to vote together after their shift Wednesday evening.

“I’m not big on politics, but I do know that it needs to change, and from what my coworkers told me, he seems like the best candidate, so that’s what I’m going to go with,” Lilly said. 

When pressed on what exactly he thinks needs to change, and Lilly pointed to an apartment complex under construction across the street. 

“For example, when they built this building, this condominium right here, it kind of irked me," Lilly said. "You’ve got people who’ve lived here for generations, and their families have lost their houses to people who are developing, you know, condominiums, and now they’re out here on the streets.”

When reminded that Asheville City Council seats, which could have a more direct impact are also on the primary ballot, Lilly shrugs and says he wishes he’d heard more from them. And he’s not alone. 

Another young voter, 22-year-old Arlo Gregson, is stocking the display case at Vortex Donuts. Bernie Sanders is also the reason why she’s turning out to vote in the primary. 

“I’m not as familiar with the local candidates, and I think that’s something I would probably do some research the last minute about,” Gregson said. 


Arlo Gregson, 22, says she's voting for Sanders because she's most concerned about growing wealth inequality. She says she still needs to study up on the local issues.
Credit Cass Herrington / BPR News

“For a number of reasons. Right now, things are slated to favor the wealthy in our country, and I’m just looking to shift that,” Gregson said.  

Gregson says that despite his age, she’s comforted by his consistency. In the meantime, she says, she’ll study up on the other races in time for March 3.