Voting Advice For The Democratic Primary in Buncombe County



We’ve been following a lot of the races on the primary ballot, me and you. But there are a lot of races you might not have had a chance to do your homework about. This post is to tell you who I’m voting for and brief explanations as to why.

While it’s always better to do your own research, I know that finding time to figure out who’s the better candidate for State Auditor or Commissioner of Labor can be just too much for folks’ busy schedules. Here’s a fancy sample Democratic Party primary ballot to follow along with, and in “Read the Rest Of This Entry” Land, you’ll find my picks for everyone from President to Appeals Court Judge.

Early voting is open and running. Go do it.

Presidential Preference

Barack Obama

While Mike Gravel brings a certain manic ecumenism to the Presidential race, it’s fair to say that he won’t be grasping that golden ring on this go ’round. His supporters are still happy to have him sleeping on their couches between inarticulate rants at Ryan’s Steakhouses across the Northwest, but I imagine they’ll agree that his chances of becoming President are only slightly better than Charles Manson’s.

As evidenced by her perseveration on gotcha politics, Hillary Clinton is more of the same Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton paradigm. It really is time for a change, and no one but Obama is poised to deliver a substantively different way forward.

US Senate

Jim Neal

There are five candidates in this race, but it comes down to Jim Neal and Kay Hagan. Hagan stated she would not run for the seat. A few days after Neal announced his candidacy, Chuck Schumer and the DSCC twisted Kay Hagan’s arm and got her on the ballot. Jim Neal is a progressive with a background in business and political fundraising. He’s also gay. Chuck Schumer decided that a gay man at the top of the ticket was unacceptable, so he forcibly drafted Ms. Hagan. Jim’s got solidly progressive stands on Iraq, Health Care, the environment, and, yes, LGBT rights. Either Hagan or Neal can beat do-nothing Bush toady, Elizabeth Dole.


Richard Moore Bev Perdue

I’m no big fan of either Moore or his opponent, Bev Perdue. Doug Gibson likes Bev Perdue, and I rarely disagree with Doug’s choices. However, when looking closely at the mental health crisis and what it will take to fix it, I find a fundamental lack of accountability coming from Perdue, who’s served as Lt. Governor for the duration of the collapse. I think either of them can beat the Republican candidates. So this is more of a gut-feeling vote than anything else.

You may consider this a better informed flip-flop if you like, but I’ve now heard the opinion of NC State Senator Martin Nesbitt who’s been fighting the good fight for mental health for years. His opinion is that Bev Perdue will be easier to work with on mental health issues. That’s good enough for me. Sorry Richard!

Lieutenant Governor

Pat Smathers or Dan Besse

With four candidates running for this nomination, we’re likely to go to a run-off between the top two vote-getters. Conservative Dem, Walter Dalton, and attorney Hampton Dellinger have styled themselves the front-runners based on big fundraising. Dan Besse has received the endorsement of lots of environmental groups, and if the environment is your litmus test, then Dan’s your man. Pat Smathers, Mayor of Canton, is running on a devolutionist platform of returning more power to municipalities. I like both of these men. They’re honest, professional, and not trapped in the poisonous culture of Raleigh. You can’t go wrong with either. Just remember to get back out and vote in the run off.


Beth Wood

This one goes to Wood for her experience in the Auditor’s office. In case you’re wondering what the Auditor does: “The North Carolina General Assembly appropriates more than $20 billion in taxpayer money to state agencies each year. The State Auditor’s Office is responsible for monitoring how this money is used, accounted for and how well state agencies are performing.” Wood’s opponent, Fred Aikens, has made proposals that require a change in the job description to fulfill. Wood’s solid.

Commissioner of Insurance

Wayne Goodwin

I’m choosing Wayne because DFA likes him and so do the firefighters. The Commissioner of Insurance’s job description is here. Goodwin’s liveblog over at BlueNC was superior to Smith’s.

Commissioner of Labor

Robin Anderson

Responding to a question about how she’d be different from Sherie Berry, Anderson wrote: “Inspect. Berry claimed that ‘we can’t just go in and inspect factories,’ and she said that fines don’t work and she isn’t in the ‘collection business.’ Not only is that not true, the Labor Commissioner is specifically charged with the duty to inspect factories. As we all know… fines do work if they have teeth and are justly applied. Some companies want to fix problems, we should work with them, and some don’t.”

Labor Commissioner is supposed to protect workers’ rights in this worker-hostile state. Anderson’s got enough experience and chutzpah to make progress in this area.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

June St. Clair Atkinson

Atkinson fought like a pitbull in 2004/2005 for this job, and it’s her tenacity that most draws me to her. Superintendent of Public Schools is a tough job, and it’ll take a tough person to weather the constant assault on public education from the conservative right. Challenger Eddie Davis looks like a solid guy, but I love Atkinson’s toughness.


David Young

Currently Buncombe County Commissioner, Young can influence and increase the likelihood that the mountains get their fair share of the pie. He’s also got the know-how to invest our state money wisely.

County Commissioner (you may vote for four)

Holly Jones
Cecil Bothwell
K. Ray Bailey
Keith Thomson

It’s clear that it’s time for a change on our County Commission. Holly Jones provides the perspective necessary to end the City vs. County mentality that’s plagued local politics forever. Cecil Bothwell has specific proposals to make Buncombe more energy independent while saving people money. K. Ray Bailey brings a much needed head for education services to the Commission, and he’s got a cool name. Keith Thomson’s community focus and ideas for a Green Energy Park are welcome shifts from the Old Guard. All four are intent on increasing government transparency.

Bill Stanley has served five terms as County Commissioner, and his performance belies an indifference to outcomes. Carol Peterson has made some good votes during her tenure, but her actions regarding the Progress Energy Diesel Power Plant and the sale of public parkland have cast doubt on her commitment to transparency and openness.

Court of Appeals Judge

James A. Wynn

Wynn’s opponents look weak. I’d like to see a non-incumbent who looks better on paper than Wynn, but they’re not there.

Court of Appeals Judge

Kristin Ruth

Ruth’s list of endorsements is impressive in its length and variety. Mr. Irvin’s a legacy, and I’d like to see new people on the bench. She’s also hip to “problem-solving” court principles that take some of the load off of the courts.

The Short Form For Cutting and Pasting:

President – Barack Obama
Senate – Jim Neal
Governor – Bev Perdue
Lt. Governor – Pat Smathers or Dan Besse
Auditor – Beth Wood
Commissioner of Insurance – Wayne Goodwin
Commissioner of Labor – Robin Anderson
Superintendent – June Atkinson
Treasurer – David Young
County Commissioner – Holly Jones, Cecil Bothwell, K. Ray Bailey, Keith Thomson
Appeals Court Judge – James A. Wynn
Appeals Court Judge – Kristin Ruth


  1. Thanks, Gordon. Given the number of offices and candidates on the ballot, this is very helpful.

  2. bobaloo says:

    I agree with your county commissioner choices, even Bothwell, though I find it mildly distasteful to go from crack journalist to politician.
    I may not be too keen on all of their personal politics, but these folks seem like the type most likely to work with the city and scrutinize further county development.

  3. Alan H. Berger says:

    Thanks, Gordon – this is great. It really helps out a lot in my candidate research.

  4. David Roat says:

    Pat Smathers and Dan Besse are both solid progressive candidates. But Besse seems to be working a lot harder at it. So he got my vote.

  5. Jim says:

    I couldn’t disagree more on David Young.

    Why would we want to support someone for Treasurer after they sold the front lawn of the courthouse…..by mistake……in secret….for half-price?

    I’d imagine all three of the other candidates must be more qualified.

  6. Arratik says:

    That’s precisely why I went with Michael Weisel, Jim.

  7. Doug Gibson says:

    Oh, and for anyone arriving here from House District 119 (Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain Counties), DFA-Asheville has also endorsed Avram Friedman, who’s running against incumbent Phil Haire in the Democratic primary. For those of you in Buncombe, I don’t think we’ve got any Democratic legislative primaries. Sorry.

    But back to Avram – he organized what is so far the only successful citizen lobbying effort to put a referendum on the ballot. When there was a proposal for a radioactive waste dump on the border of Buncombe and Madison counties, he got the legislature to approve a referendum on it – which failed, of course, ending the proposal. He’s done a lot of other impressive stuff as well. Check out his website.

  8. Bryan Freeborn says:


    I think that you have a good list. Jim makes a great point about David Young. If I thought that being from my area mattered, I would be voting for Mumpower or I would have supported John Edwards. But at the end of the day proximity is worthless if the candidate already screws his current constituents. I voted already and here is my list for what it is worth.

    Freeborn’s Short Form For Cutting and Pasting:

    President – Barack Obama
    Senate – Jim Neal
    Governor – Bev Purdue, only because Richard Moore supports keeping our current Board of Transportation Rep, Alan Thornberg in place. Other than that there is not much of a difference.
    Lt. Governor – Pat Smathers aka Local Leadership State Wide
    Auditor – Beth Wood
    Commissioner of Insurance – Wayne Goodwin
    Commissioner of Labor – Robin Anderson
    Superintendent – June Atkinson
    Treasurer – Janet Cowell, http://www.cowellfortreasurer.com , check her out. She is a real progressive.
    County Commissioner – Holly Jones, Cecil Bothwell, Keith Thomson (Only three for me in the primary. Best way to get three good people through.)
    Appeals Court Judge – James A. Wynn
    Appeals Court Judge – Kristin Ruth

  9. Bryan Freeborn says:

    When I said that Janet Cowell is a real progressive, I was not implying that there are unreal progressives running. I just happen to like her politics and think that she is a good example of quality progressive politics in action.

  10. Ken Miller says:

    I like Bryan’s picks. I also like the strategy on the Commissioner picks.

    Myself, I only voted for two.

    I think there are hundreds if not a thousand county voters who feel strongly about just one or two candidates, yet will vote for four. This strategy could backfire and cause their #3 and #4 picks to pick up enough votes to beat out their favorites.

  11. pseudonymous in nc says:

    My wife works in state mental health, and it’s the issue that decided her vote for Governor: based on their respective records, and particularly Nesbitt’s lead — Moore’s is just empty — Bev Perdue is the more clued up of the two lead candidates on how to address the specifics of the clusterfuck over the last few years, even thoug she was Lt. Gov. during the selloff.

  12. Daisy Roland says:

    This was really helpful for me on the more obscure races; thanks Gordon!

  13. Gordon Smith says:

    You’re welcome, Daisy. See you at the Brewing Co. for primary results?

  14. Good input from everyone. This helps greatly, although I’m still undecided on Obama vs. Clinton, although I’m leaning more toward Obama for the very reasons you stated, Gordon.