Taking Asheville out of 11th makes no sense

To carve Asheville out of the 11th Congressional District is completely irrational.

My campaign will work with all Western North Carolina Democrats to fight this gerrymandering. We’ll oppose it on every level. We look forward to supporting a united legal challenge. And, I urge Re. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, to join us in this.

Asheville is, after all, the economic hub of this region with 40,000 daily commuters who follow the river valleys to work each morning. Asheville is the medical center for the region for the same reason: rapid transportation can be a matter of life and death. Asheville is the legal nexus as well, with its Federal Courthouse serving all of the western counties and is also the banking and business core of the region.

More compelling is the fact that fully one third of the residents of WNC live in Buncombe County!

The French Broad River inexorably links Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe and Madison counties. The economic ties of our region are all a function of our mountain watersheds. The Land of Sky Regional Council, which includes those four counties, is not an artificial consruct — it is a planning district dictated by geographic reality. Our railroads and highways follow the river valleys due to geographic necessity as well.

By jamming Asheville into the 10th Congressional District, and adding Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Mitchell and Wautauga counties to the 11th, the Raleigh Republicans have removed the region’s media center, the source for the news that lets people see what government is doing in order to cast intelligent votes.

For voters in those north-central counties, Winston-Salem and Charlotte are the major media sources, while Morganton and Hickory are the closest economic centers. Meanwhile, Asheville’s news media will suddenly be reporting on congressional news related to Gastonia, which is clearly a part of the greater Charlotte metropolitan area.

The GOP can pat itself on the back, believing that its cookie-cutter tomfoolery is long deserved payback for past Democratic sins, but what they’re doing is showing us that all they care about is power — not the people of our state. They don’t want the people of WNC to have a representative in Washington who stands up for our regional interests. That should be a matter of concern to Republicans and Democrats alike in these mountains. They don’t want us to have a champion in Congress who will fight for our jobs, our health and our lives.

Of course, their stated goal is to create another “safe” Republican seat in the 11th District. But contemplating that outcome should also be extremely unsettling to WNC voters.

Republicans have long been trying to scuttle Social Security and Medicare. They are the same people who brought us NAFTA, CAFTA and WTO deals with China — sending  our jobs out of the country. The Republicans’ apparent overarching goal is to divert American wealth to the wealthiest, while middle class workers in WNC lose their jobs, their homes and their health care.

This is the time for us to unite as Democrats — blue dog, yellow dog, middle of the road. We are share one common bond — we are Mountain Democrats!

Let’s show Raleigh Republicans that we may vary in our political opinions, but when our home turf is threatened we come together to defend our mountain homes.

I feel that challenging these maps constitutes an absolute obligation to my constituents, both as an Asheville City Council member and as a candidate in the 11th Congressional District. These western mountains are my home, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

(Cecil Bothwell is an Asheville city councilman and a Democratic candidate for the 11th Congressional District seat now held by Rep. Heath Shuler. The proposed redistricting map released last week  would take Asheville out of Shuler’s 11th District.)

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