With the mayorship and three Asheville City Council seats up for election, this year’s primary is more important than ever. Here’s our candidate guide.
Above: City Hall by night. Max Cooper
While every election has its own importance, if there was ever a year to cast your ballot in our city’s local elections, this is it. With issues from whether Ashevillians can keep a roof over their heads to tackling de facto segregation to questions of government transparency and the conduct of the police department, it’s a key and often tumultuous time in our city.
Right now, Ashevillians can go to the polls to choose which leaders will shape that future. Early voting lasts at the county Board of Elections until Oct. 7 or you can vote at your polling place on Oct. 10 (you can find out the location here). There are four mayoral and 12 Council candidates on the ballot. The primary will narrow those to two mayoral candidates and six Council candidates.
Last month, after receiving an array of sharp, insightful questions from our readers, we sent 10 key questions to the candidates.
In the interest of full disclosure: two of the candidates, Martin Ramsey (who’s running for mayor) and Sheneika Smith (who’s running for Council) have written columns for the Blade in the past.
You will see 16 candidates listed on your ballot. One, Jonathan Austin Glover, suspended his campaign for mayor in mid-September. One Council candidate, Pratik Bhakta, did not respond to our questionnaire.
A mayoral candidate, Jonathan Wainscott, did not receive a questionnaire from us because in 2015 Wainscott received charges of violating a domestic violence protective order. That alone should completely exclude a candidate from public office and we will give no such candidate any coverage or place in our election guide, other than to mention that fact as the reason for us refusing to cover them. The leeway given to abusers and misogynists in this city’s culture is a massive problem, and media have an obligation to fight that evil, not further it.
Below are 13 candidate questionnaires, half are general questions about policy, half are “yes/no” questions about specific issues Council has or may vote on (with space for the candidate to explain their position after explaining how they’d vote). Unfortunately, in two cases candidates — Mayor Esther Manheimer and Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler — refused to answer the “yes/no” portion of the questionnaire. That is regrettable and if both are still running during the general election, I hope they will choose a very different path. Stating and justifying clear stances on issues that impact the lives of thousands is the duty of every public official — and everyone who seeks to become or remain one.
With that, I hope our readers will find our guide revealing. Names are listed in the order they appear on the ballot. Voters, the choice is up to you.
Mayor of Asheville (vote for one)
Jonathan Austin Glover [candidate has suspended campaign]
Esther Manheimer (incumbent)
Jonathan Wainscott [candidate not issued a questionnaire due to domestic violence charges]
Asheville City Council (vote for three)
Pratik Bhakta [Candidate did not respond to questionnaire]
Cecil Bothwell (incumbent)
Gwen Wisler (incumbent)