Bryson wins June 7 congressional primary
Democrat Rick Bryson will move on to run against U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows in the general election after narrowly winning the June 7 congressional primary.
Bryson, who currently serves on the Bryson City Board of Aldermen, beat out fellow Democrat Tom Hill of Zirconia with 50.75 percent of the vote. While this is Bryson’s first time running for federal office, this was Hill’s third unsuccessful attempt at the 11th District seat.
Congressional candidates anticipated low voter turnout since the congressional primary was moved from the March 15 primary to its own primary on June 7, but the final results still came as a surprise with less than 8 percent of the district casting a vote.
“In my mind, I'd guessed about 20 percent (turnout) — typical of a municipal election,” Bryson said. “However, as we know, the June 7 turnout was a fraction of that.”
Even in Bryson’s home base of Swain County, voter turn out was only 5 percent.
Turnout wasn’t much better in the other counties — 7 percent in Macon County, 11 percent in Jackson County and 6.5 percent in Haywood. Jackson’s slightly higher turn out can be attributed to the fact there was a one-quarter-cent sales tax referendum on the ballot as well.
Just weeks before the March 15 primary, North Carolina received a federal trial court order to suspend the current congressional election because of several lawsuits moving through federal courts challenging the state’s legislative and congressional district maps. The maps had been redrawn in 2011 and used for the 2012 and 2014 elections, but four separate lawsuits claimed Republican legislators gerrymandered the districts.
At that point, it was too late to remove congressional candidates from the March 15 ballots. Many people already cast their vote for their U.S. representatives during the first primary election, but many were probably unaware their vote wasn’t counted.
“The low turnout reflects the confusion caused by the General Assembly and State Board of Elections on how to handle the redistricting,” Bryson said. “Those who knew about and understood the congressional primary were few — most thought that once they'd voted in March, that was it.”
While low voter turnout typically tends to favor the candidate with more name recognition, which would have been Hill in this instance, Bryson said he hopes his victory speaks to the amount of support for his platform.
“In a sort of backhanded way, I think the results of the election affirm my message of supporting women's rights, veterans' rights, Social Security, and bringing a high-profile jobs program to WNC,” he said.
Moving into the November election, Bryson said he hopes to convince enough people that the “politics of reality” is better than the “politics of bait-and-switch” where fake problems are created and self-serving solutions are cooked up. He does have a hard road ahead of him though as Rep. Meadows was elected in 2012 and 2014 with substantial victories. In 2012, Meadows received about 57 percent of the vote when running against Democrat Hayden Rogers and he received 63 percent of the vote in 2014 when he ran against Hill.
“I will take on Mark Meadows by offering the people something positive to vote for, not just a failed program to vote against,” Bryson said. “The name of my jobs program is WNC GenerationNOW. It is potentially the most far-reaching industrial development program ever to come to WNC. I will be talking a lot about this, explaining it over the summer and fall.”
Some claim the 11th District is gerrymandered to the point no Democrat could get elected, but Bryson is trying to remain optimistic that he can reach voters of both political parties.
“I have faith that there are enough Republican and unaffiliated voters who are fed up with the counter productive demonizing tactics of the Tea Party, and who are ready for a congressman who plans and builds for today and tomorrow, and who has a record of delivering on his plans,” he said.
Meadows has made quite a name for himself in D.C. — making friends and enemies for not always toeing the party line. But for better or for worse, he says the people of his district are always his No. 1 priority even throughout the election season.
“We will continue to serve our veterans with three district veterans benefit expediting seminars, our law enforcements and first responders with two support and instruction gatherings, and creating jobs by closely working with elected officials, educators and local businesses,” Meadows said in a prepared statement. “The next few months will be more about people than politics, less about campaigning and more about serving.”
Results by county — June 7 congressional primary election
Democratic candidates Rick Bryson and Tom Hill were battling it out in the June 7 primary to see who would move on to run against U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, for the 11th District Congressional seat to represent Western North Carolina in Washington, D.C.
• Rick Bryson — 966 votes (55.6 percent)
• Tom Hill — 771 votes (44.4 percent)
• Rick Bryson — 984 votes (54.7 percent)
• Tom Hill — 816 votes (45.3 percent)
• Rick Bryson — 551 votes (72.7 percent)
• Tom Hill — 207 votes (27.3 percent)
• Rick Bryson — 292 votes (78.5 percent)
• Tom Hill — 80 votes (21.5 percent)
• Rick Bryson — 9,636 votes (50.75 percent)
• Tom Hill — 9,351 votes (49.25 percent)