Walsh-Roundtree Duel Looms for Council - TribPapers
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Walsh-Roundtree Duel Looms for Council

Chelsea Walsh.

Hendersonville – The Hendersonville City Council race is down to three finalists for two seats in the Nov. 2 election after one of the primary vote winners — a man convicted of vandalism two years ago — dropped out then endorsed two people over the third candidate.

Raphael Morales remains on the ballot as election rules require, since he dropped out so late. He indicated in a written statement Oct. 10 and in local media interviews he dropped out to help support Debbie Roundtree‘s bid for one of the two seats – rather than to rival her for what he sees as only one truly available seat. He stated he now concludes three-term Council member Jerry Smith has a very probable chance of getting reelected.

Jeff Miller did not run again, making his seat open. That opens the way for a new Council member — and only one if Smith indeed is reelected as many expect. It sets up a likely showdown between Walsh and Roundtree.

Morales drew party lines in the sand for the non-partisan race by opposing Chelsea Walsh — with this written comment on Oct. 10: “After considering what we stand to lose by electing the former chairwoman of the county Republican Party (Walsh) to our City Council, I have respectfully chosen to withdraw from this race and commit to endorsing both Jerry Smith and Debbie Roundtree…”

Smith, Walsh, Roundtree and Morales as the top four vote-getters in the primary Oct. 5 qualified for the general election.

Debbie Roundtree. Photo submitted.

Third Time the Charm?

While Morales criticized Walsh’s high-profile role in local politics, Roundtree is no stranger to partisan politics either. She drew public praise from Democrat candidate Moe Davis for going door-to-door with him on his behalf last year, when he lost the general election to Madison Cawthorn. She was recently local NAACP chapter 5477 second vice-president.

She lives near Green Meadows by Seventh Avenue. She calls for greater revitalization of neighborhoods — not merely businesses there. She founded the local Back-to-School Fest. She calls for replacing aging infrastructure and paying for poorer families’ school supplies. She cites quality education, affordable housing and zoning as among key issues.

Roundtree ran for a council seat in the two prior elections — in 2017 and ‘19 — and lost both times. Morales endorsed Roundtree and also Smith, over Walsh. Morales is linked more to Roundtree. This is since the Henderson County Democratic Party ahead of the primary had online links to campaign websites for those two but not for apparently less liberal Smith.

The primary had a lower than usual voter turnout in an off-year election, officials told the Tribune. Voter registration year rose slightly — as expected much less than the rise in the presidential election year of 2020. Some attribute the low turnout and apparent greater mobilization of supporters for the more liberal candidates for their defeating both Mikes — retired police Lt. Vesely, and Baer who co-owns the Elizabeth Leigh Inn.

D.J. Harrington. Photo submitted.

Walsh’s Priorities

After getting eliminated in the primary, Baer publicly endorsed Chelsea Walsh for City Council. “She is the only conservative running,” he asserted. “Our city needs balance—not partisanship, but balance. She’s qualified, smart, and hard-working.”

Walsh’s campaign slogans include “Today’s Influence, Tomorrow’s Impact”; “Vote to Preserve, Conserve and Advance our Community‘s Legacy” and “Don’t Asheville My Hendersonville” — as a critique of her much more liberal opponents.

Walsh cites as priorities good-paying jobs, affordable housing and more detailed growth guidelines and environmental protection — all of which she terms “structure” to go with roads and other “infrastructure.”

Public safety is another priority of hers. Walsh calls for ample funding and policy support of law enforcement, setting up a traffic division to free police patrol to combat non-traffic crime, education, and responsible budgeting and taxation.

She vows to be a “servant leader” weighing public input in decisions. She said she realizes citizen concerns include the impact of proposed developments near their homes, downtown parking and the parking deck that is going up, and the future site of miniature golf.

Walsh is a local sales manager for North American Senior Benefits. She studied risk management and insurance at Appalachian State.

Jerry Smith. Photo submitted.

Bearcat Smith

Jerry A. Smith, Jr.  is running for a fourth consecutive term. Smith on his Facebook campaign page lists as priority issues tax and water-sewer rates, zoning, public safety, parks and green space, finalizing parking deck details, workforce housing and affordable housing.

Smith was first elected in 2009. His colleagues chose him as mayor pro tempore two years ago.

He is a Hendersonville High School teacher throughout this Millennium, and HHS mock trial coach. He coached varsity baseball Bearcats to several league titles. The UNC-CH alumnus has a law degree from Carolina Central and a master’s in education from George Mason.

Convicted Vandal

Morales’ candidacy and his alliance with Roundtree especially has snags. Morales was convicted by early 2020 of vandalizing property of noted Asheville abstract artist Jonas Gerard. Court documents indicate Morales was ordered by the court to pay Gerard $29,950 in restitution fees by mid-2024 for defacing Gerard paintings.

Raphael Demetrius Morales, now 31, pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor injury to personal property and one count of resisting arrest. He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and 45 days of community service.

Specifically, police reported Morales vandalized nearly $14,000 worth of Gerard paintings displayed in the Asheville Regional Airport, and ruined a $8,000 painting at a live show by Gerard. Police said Morales and Lazlo Redmond, 22, of Arden heaved balloons at a Gerard painting — splattering it with black paint in the balloons.

Asheville Survivors Coalition is at odds with Gerard over allegations of sexual assault by him. Gerard has not been convicted in criminal court of such charges. Yet Morales is on record saying he believes Gerard’s accusers and is for “civil disobedience.”

Further, Morales’ official residency is listed as Asheville in court records. This is less than two years ago. Some citizens are concerned about allies of a candidate who only recently set up residency in a city and wants to shape it so soon. Many suspect an effort to infiltrate Hendersonville politics with Asheville-tinged liberalism and activism — even vandalism and aggressive confrontation. This likely fueled the “Don’t Asheville My Hendersonville” plea.

Mayor Barbara Volk. Photo submitted.

Mayoral Race

Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk is challenged by Daniel James “D.J.” Harrington.

Harrington states “we can work together, partner on local issues, and strive to just be better.” Baer endorsed Harrington as a “solid choice.”

Volk became mayor in December of 2009 — 12 years ago. She first served on council in 1989. She is a retired computer service provider. She has a math degree from Valparaiso. She is a registered parliamentarian.

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