Smoky Mountain News

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The nation's political eyes are on North Carolina.  First, for the gerrymandering lawsuit that the state supreme court is expected to rule that will determine lines for U.S. House and General Assembly elections this year, but also for the U.S. Senate election which could determine which party controls the chamber next year.

#NC14: Henderson County Sen. Chuck Edwards enters race

Dec 1, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

Henderson County Republican state senator Chuck Edwards’ entry into North Carolina’s 14th Congressional district race is the latest turn in the soap opera that is Western North Carolina’s politics.

Many veterans still feel the call to serve

Nov 10, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

Veteran’s Day celebrates the service of members of the armed forces.  For some of those veterans, their service never stops, even years after they take off that uniform for the last time.

For the Haywood County chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, that service means a little something extra.

Undiscovered Acts Flourish At MerleFest

Sep 23, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

There was plenty of disappointment last year when MerleFest became a casualty of the pandemic.  This year, the show went on.  America’s premier “traditional plus” music festival returned, once again giving undiscovered acts their chance to shine.

WNC Flood Survivor Recounts Harrowing Tale

Aug 30, 2021
Natasha Bright

Residents in Haywood County are holding their breath that remnants of Hurricane Ida don’t add to their misery this week.  For some, the trauma of what happened two weeks ago is still front and center.     


As the second half of 2021 comes into full view, the field of candidates running to unseat freshman Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn continues to grow in Western North Carolina's 11th Congressional District.  The list of incidents involving the youngest member of Congress is also growing halfway through his first year in office.

NCDOT Adjusts Haywood Bridge Replacement Timeline

Jul 19, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

The State Department of Transportation is re-evaluating a controversial road project in Haywood County after criticism from residents and municipalities. 

Haywood Homelessness Task Force Issues Report

Jul 14, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

Homelessness was the key issue in the most recent municipal elections in Haywood County. In late 2019, newly-elected leaders in the Town of Waynesville created a task force to gather information.  It’s now issued recommendations, which will likely generate new controversy.

Cory Vaillancourt

COVID-19 caused the cancellation last fall of one of the nation’s greatest high school football rivalries – Pisgah vs. Tuscola.

Although the game has finally been rescheduled for next week, the coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on the number of spectators in the stands, due to capacity limits.

Cawthorn Talks Insurrection, Being Armed At Capitol

Jan 21, 2021
Jeffrey Delannoy/Smoky Mountain News

Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-Hendersonville, hasn’t even been in office for three weeks but he’s certainly made waves – not just in D.C., but in his Western North Carolina district.

Safety And Security Paramount For Biden Inaugural Events

Jan 20, 2021
Jeffrey Delannoy/Smoky Mountain News

President Trump is now “former President Trump.” But security concerns lingered during the inauguration of his successor, Joe Biden, after Trump helped incite a violent insurrection earlier this month.  In Washington, locals, tourists and, yes, reporters, dealt with the fallout of the insurrection on inauguration day. 

#NC11: Cawthorn Wins Big

Nov 4, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

The race to replace Mark Meadows in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District was full of unexpected twists and turns almost from the moment it began last December. True to form, the final result was perhaps the most unexpected development - a blowout win.

An unexpected vacancy in one of Western North Carolina’s state house districts has two candidates scrambling for a victory that could have major consequences in the General Assembly.

#NC11: Aggressive Tweets Overshadow Race

Sep 17, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

Candidates seeking to replace former Congressman Mark Meadows in Western North Carolina have spent plenty of time attacking each other.  It’s gone to a new level now however after controversial tweets resurfaced earlier this month.

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

On September 4th and 5th Blue Ridge Public Radio in partnership with Smoky Mountain News and Mountain Xpress held two forums with the major party candidates for the currently vacant seat in North Carolina's 11th Congressional district.  Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis faced each other at Western Carolina University's Biltmore Park campus, and then again at the school's main campus in Cullowhee.  Cory Vaillancourt of Smoky Mountain News and BPR moderated. 

Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis, candidates for North Carolina's 11th Congressional district seat left vacant by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have both agreed to appear at a two-day joint forum hosted by three of the district’s largest media outlets, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Smoky Mountain News, and Mountain Xpress.

Garret K. Woodward

Western North Carolina author David Joy’s latest novel came out this week.   Known as a teller of dark, gritty fiction set in the Smokies, Joy is rooted in the region.  That led to him falling under the influence of one of America’s greatest working writers.

Cory Vaillancourt

There are 435 elections this fall in the United State for the House of Representatives.  North Carolina’s 11th district will be unique in at least one way – candidates will be talking about reparations.  That’s because Asheville city council voted earlier this month to start the process for reparations to the city’s Black community.

High-Profile NC11 Congressional Runoff Draws Near

Jun 9, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

The race to replace Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows enters a new phase this month. 

Early voting has begun for the June 23 Second Primary for the GOP nomination in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional district, as eligible Republicans and independents will decide whom faces Democrat Moe Davis in November.

The runoff election is just another chapter in a saga that even the most-seasoned political expert might have found implausible just months ago. 

Sales Tax Projections Impact Local Government Budgets

May 21, 2020

The Coronavirus Pandemic popped up just as local governments across the state were in the heart of budget season. That’s forced many to reassess plans that were made back in January. As cities and counties ponder budget cuts, they’ll look closely at the pandemic’s impact on sales tax revenue.

The Coronavirus pandemic took hold right as one of Southern Appalachia’s most important cultural traditions annually takes place.  The pungent wild onions known as ramps are largely absent from people’s plates because they’re usually brought to the table by foragers – a group that is feeling the pinch of social distancing not in how they collect, but in how they sell.

Cory Vaillancourt

As of April 16, more than 630,000 North Carolina workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic had filed for state unemployment benefits, but even with many industries still shuttered, many others are still looking for workers.

Haywood County Protestors Want Businesses Open

Apr 20, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

Protestors calling on North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to re-open the state’s economy no later than May 1 are expected to hold a second protest Tuesday in Raleigh, but one group of protestors got a head start Sunday in Haywood County.

Coronavirus Challenges Nation's Funeral Industry

Apr 2, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of American life – schools, corporations and governments have all had to change the way they do business, but they’re not the only ones.

Haywood County Issues Restrictions On Movement

Mar 26, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

Haywood County became the latest in Western North Carolina to impose restrictions on movement due to COVID19, with an order going into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents of Haywood County and all four of its municipalities can still go to grocery and convenience stores, seek medicines or medical care, order take-out, bike, hike and jog, care for loved ones in other households and tend to the needs of pets, among other things.

Distillers Begin Producing Hand Sanitizer

Mar 25, 2020
Elevated Mountain

As the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to ripple through North Carolina’s economy, businesses and manufacturers are doing whatever they can to stay afloat – and some of them are getting pretty creative.

Laid-Off Bar And Restaurant Workers Band Together

Mar 23, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

While the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on American society are readily apparent, there’s often a hidden side with a human toll.

Haywood Public Schools Step Up To Feed Hungry Children

Mar 19, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

While the coronavirus pandemic has affected American life in many obvious ways with travel bans, social distancing and business closures, it’s also beginning to have unanticipated effects on many other aspects of society.  

BPR Early Voting Guide For Western North Carolina

Feb 12, 2020

Early voting in North Carolina starts on February 13th and runs until Feburary 29th.  Same day voter registration is available each day of early voting.  Photo ID is not required to vote during the primary election.  The deadline to register to vote in order to cast a ballot on primary day March 3rd has already passed, so those who have yet to register will only be able to vote during the early voting period.

2nd Amendment Sanctuary Push Hits Home In Haywood County

Jan 22, 2020
Cory Vaillancourt

On Monday, thousands of peaceful demonstrators converged on the Virginia state capitol in protest of proposed restrictions on gun sales.   A day later, the push for so-called “Second Amendment sanctuaries” picked up again in neighboring North Carolina.  That included the home county of the late Riley Howell, the hero of last year’s shooting at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.