Buncombe County Commission Chair Race: A Unique Electoral Situation - TribPapers

Buncombe County Commission Chair Race: A Unique Electoral Situation

Buncombe County Commissioner Districts showing Precincts. Graphic submitted.

Asheville – This November, voters will face a unique situation when it comes to selecting the next County Commission Chair. Democrat Amanda Edwards, who is currently serving her second year of a four-year term as a commissioner, has filed to run for the open Commission Chair seat which is being vacated by current Chair Brownie Newman. After the filing deadline passed and no one else had filed to run for the office, it was assumed that Edwards, who was unopposed, would be the next Commission Chair. She was quoted in news articles as saying she would become the first woman to hold the office.

But hold on! In mid-December, after the filing date had closed, former three-term Sheriff Van Duncan announced he would run as an unaffiliated candidate for Commission Chair. The problem was, he would need to get 8,295 registered voters to sign a petition provided by the Board of Elections to get his name placed on the ballot. Knowing this would be a daunting task because he only had a little over two months to do so, Duncan mailed a personal letter and a copy of the petition along with a postage-paid return envelope to many voters who had voted in the last three elections. As a result, he obtained the required number of signatures in just 40 days, and he ended up gathering more than 2000 additional signatures beyond what was required. Duncan’s getting on the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate is what has now presented voters with a quandary. Consider this, if Edwards is elected, it will vacate her District 3 Commission seat, which will allow the Democrat Executive Committee and District 3 officials to appoint an unelected person to fill the remaining two years of her term. This unelected commissioner would be joined by Democrat Parker Sloan, who is running unopposed for reelection to the other District 3 seat on the County Commission.

However, if Duncan is elected, Edwards who is already on the Commission, will remain on the Commission for two more years after the election. Voters who like both candidates can elect Duncan and have them both for two years.

The dilemma for voters is whether they want both Duncan and Edwards for at least two years, or would they prefer to elect Edwards and end up with three representatives from District 3, which is essentially Downtown Asheville. This would give Downtown Asheville three members of the County Commission, including the Chair, Parker Sloan, and an unelected appointee. Facing this predicament, voters will need to listen carefully to both Edwards and Duncan during the campaign. The decision they make could have a lasting impact on the future of Buncombe County. As a side note, another unaffiliated candidate, Bruce O’Conner, is running for the District 2 Commission seat currently held by Democrat Terry Wells. O’Conner previously ran unsuccessfully for the 11th District House of Representatives seat currently held by Rep. Chuck Edwards. Currently, all seven members of the County Commission are Democrats.