Duncan Asking for Signatures to Run As Chairman - TribPapers

Duncan Asking for Signatures to Run As Chairman

Former Sheriff Van Duncan wants to be chairman of commissioners. Photo submitted

Buncombe County – Former Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan is looking to make a comeback to Buncombe County politics as chairman of the county commissioners. This time, not as a Democrat nor as a Republican. This time, he’s running as an unaffiliated candidate and seeking 15,000 signatures from county-registered voters.

Duncan only needs four percent, or about 8,500 signatures, since he has no party affiliations, but he looks to cover the spread in case of illegible signatures. He has until March 4th to get the signatures and turn them in to the Buncombe County Board of Elections.

Duncan is seizing on the opportunity for a shot at the chairman’s seat after longtime Democrat Chairman Brownie Newman announced he would not run for another term.

However, current Buncombe County Democrat Commissioner Amanda Edwards has also announced a run for the seat, looking to be the first woman to hold that position.

In a campaign video, Duncan, 59, said that after being approached by a number of community residents about the crime rate and other issues, he decided to run.

Not running for fourth term and leaving party

While most Buncombe residents were happy with Duncan’s time as sheriff and the outlook for a fourth term was good, Duncan decided not to run, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. “It’s time. I’ve always said I wanted to go when things were going well, and there was a plan for the future for the sheriff’s office, and those things have all come together,” he told the Tribune at the time of the announcement.

In 2019, after leaving office, he then left the Democrat Party telling the Tribune/Leader, “I don’t identify with the Democrat Party anymore.” Duncan said he was upset with the rhetoric of former United States Attorney General Eric Holder and believes the party has become socialist.

The reactions by local fellow Democrats were swift but not too condemning. 

“When told about Sheriff Duncan leaving the Democrat Party, Rev. Lisa Beth White of Black Mountain said, ‘That seems strange at this late date. There must be some motivation for that.’ When told that Van Duncan said the party had turned socialist, White said, ‘That term gets used in a way that doesn’t mean what it actually means.'”

When then-Democrat candidate for Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller was told of Van Duncan leaving the Democrat Party, he looked stunned, saying he had “no comment.” When told the reason Van Duncan left the Democrat Party was that the party had become socialist and that Duncan disagreed with what former US Attorney General Eric Holder had said about police officers. Miller did not know who Eric Holder was until Holder was identified as the former attorney general.

Controversy overshadows run

While Duncan’s time as sheriff was pretty much scandal-free, there was one incident with former Buncombe County Manager and convicted felon Wanda Greene, who was convicted of stealing taxpayers’ money when she gave out 11 large bonuses, including to herself, as an incentive not to retire.
Duncan received about $125,000 and claimed to WLOS News that he was more of “a victim” of Greene’s. He also said to WLOS, “What really kind of really frustrates me, and makes me angry and bothers me, is the fact that I’ve worked very hard for the people of this county for twelve years. I in no way thought I was doing anything wrong, and at the end of the day, right near retirement, I’m going out under a cloud.” 

Duncan went on to tell WLOS, “Wanda and I have had a very tenuous relationship down through the years, and I’m not at liberty to talk a whole lot. I know quite a bit more about the investigation than I’m at liberty to talk about. I can only talk about where it involves me and what the Commissioners have chosen to release at this time,” Duncan said, adding he was not under investigation.

Reporter note’s: Chad Nesbitt and the WLOS report contributed to this report.