Davis headed to Raleigh as part of Republican surge

A hard-hitting campaign, coupled with a surging Republican tide helped Jim Davis claim the state’s 50th District Senate seat on Tuesday.

Davis, a Macon County resident, beat incumbent state Sen. John Snow, a Cherokee County Democrat. If unofficial election night results stand, then Davis helped give Republicans control of the state Senate for the first time in more than a century . Republicans also took control of the N.C. House.

Davis late Tuesday night described himself as excited, elated and exhausted. The Franklin orthodontist said he intends to continue his dental practice.

Davis will now also resign his seat as a Macon County commissioner, with two years left to his term. He said his understanding is that the county’s Republican Executive Committee, via a subcommittee, will select his replacement.

Davis ran on an economic platform that promises a new policy of frugality. He blamed out-of-control taxing and spending by Democrats for North Carolina’s economic problems. He also said the state has created a climate that is unfavorable for businesses, squelching job creation.

Jim Blaine, head of North Carolina’s Senate Republican Caucus, told The Smoky Mountain News two weeks ago that he believed mountain voters would help overturn Democratic control of the state because of a desire to receive a more equitable distribution of tax dollars when compared with amounts received in the eastern portion of the state.

Snow is a retired District Court judge and prosecutor who had served three terms in the state Senate.

 

50th Senate District

Jim Davis (R)    30,838

John Snow (D)    30,634

Republicans look to control state Senate

State Senate races here in the mountains could determine whether a historic shift occurs in North Carolina’s overall political landscape.

Many experts are predicting that voters in North Carolina might punish Democrats and incumbents for the shaky economy. Republicans have not controlled the state Senate in more than a century. That could change in a matter of days as Republicans need to pick up just six seats to gain a majority. Nine seats are needed for Republicans to gain control of the state House.

“This is shaping up to be a very rough year for Democrats, just as it was a rough year for Republicans in 2008,” said Gibbs Knotts, a political science professor at Western Carolina University.

For the state Senate, two of the mostly closely contested races are here in the mountains between incumbent and Democrat Joe Sam Queen and Republican challenger Ralph Hise for District 47, and incumbent and Democrat John Snow and Republican challenger Jim Davis for District 50.

A statewide poll by Public Policy Polling earlier this month found 50 percent of likely voters would support Republicans, 42 percent would support Democrats, and just 8 percent of voters remained undecided.

More specifically, some polls are indicating leads for Republicans in both District 47 and District 50. N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a statewide research and education group serving business and industry, noted Queen fell narrowly behind Hise, the mayor of Spruce Pine, in two polls in June. One taken in mid-September had Hise 10-percentage points in the lead.

“Sen. Queen has proven himself a tenacious politician, but is facing a substantial headwind this year that could return the seat to Republican hands,” John Ruskin, executive director of the foundation, said in a recent news release.

A poll Oct. 8 showed Snow trailing Davis by 16 percentage points.

“If this district goes Republican, the entire portion of North Carolina’s Senate district map west of Charlotte, with the exception of a single senate seat in Buncombe County, could turn red,” Ruskin said.

Jim Blaine, head of North Carolina’s Senate Republican Caucus, credited the surge in the polls to the two GOP candidates’ hard work. He also cited a desires by mountain voters to receive an equitable distribution of state tax dollars when compared with the amounts received by those in the eastern portion of the state.

Not so fast, responded Andrew Whalen, head of North Carolina’s Democratic Party, who is deeply familiar with Western North Carolina and its voting patterns from two successful stints as U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler’s campaign manager and, most recently, as the congressman’s communications director.

“Early voting numbers show Democrats are leading out west, in ballots returned,” Whalen said. “I’m confident that Sen. Snow and Sen. Queen are going to be reelected.”

Unaffiliated candidates denied access to party voters

With more unaffiliated candidates running for office this year, political party leaders are torn over whether to open their doors to those who won’t declare party affiliation as either  Democrat or Republican.

In Jackson County, three unaffiliated candidates will be on the ballot this fall: one for sheriff, one for county commissioner chairman and one for District Court judge. The Jackson County Democratic Party has barred them from attending candidate meet-and-greets hosted by the party.

“It is not right for the Democratic Party to support a Republican or unaffiliated candidate when there is a Democratic candidate on the ballot,” said Kirk Stephens, chair of the Jackson County Democratic Party. “The role of the party organization is to support and elect Democratic candidates, so why would we stray from that?”

Kris Earwood, a candidate running for District Court judge, said she was disappointed to be barred from the meet-and-greet. Judge races are nonpartisan — meaning that even though candidates might subscribe to one party or the other when it comes to their voter registration, party affiliation isn’t listed on the ballot as it is with most races.

Stephens said some of the other candidates running for judge have been active in the party, and that it would be unfair to give those with no affiliation or involvement in the party equal access to the Democratic voter base.

Stephens said opening the doors to other candidates would actually violate the party’s national bylaws, which stipulate that party leaders can be removed for supporting a candidate of another political party.

But that hasn’t stopped party leaders in other counties. Earwood has attended both Democratic and Republican party events in other places.

“Most of them have looked at independents not as an opposing party,” Earwood said. “I have been allowed to come to things for the simple reason that both parties are realizing they are going to have to deal with the independents.”

Earwood’s opponent for the seat, David Sutton, is a registered Democrat but he has been allowed to attend meet-and-greets hosted by Republican Party in Haywood, Jackson and Macon counties — since the race is technically nonpartisan. He was barred from attending the annual convention of the Republican Party in Swain and Macon, however.

As a Democrat, Sutton has actively tapped the organized party structure to connect with voters.

“It is important to the extent that it makes networking easier,” Sutton said. “It has definitely been helpful.”

Earwood said that she was warned by politicos that her lack of party affiliation would hurt her in the race, especially when it came to campaigning.

“I was told that an independent could not win in Western North Carolina,” Earwood said. “Across the board, people told me I needed to change my party affiliation, and I felt like that was disingenuous.”

Earwood said she doesn’t think the average voter cares. In fact, the number of voters registered as unaffiliated is growing by leaps and bounds, so it may even be an asset.

“It has upset me at times when I’ve been treated ungraciously because of my independent status. But for a judicial race it should be based on the person and their career rather than what their party affiliation is,” Earwood said.

Earwood said party affiliation doesn’t factor into the job of District Court judge — witnessed by the state designating judge races as nonpartisan.

“We don’t do any policy,” Earwood said.

But Stephens said it does matter.

“Being a Democrat is not a check box on paper. It is a lifestyle. It is a philosophical way of approaching and viewing your surroundings and your community,” Stephens said. “It is important for us as a party that we have judges that represent our values.”

While party affiliation likely doesn’t affect a judge’s outlook on a speeding ticket, District Court judges also decide critical family issues such as child custody and parental rights where philosophy matters, he said.

Sutton agrees with Earwood that your party isn’t important as a District Court judge. But that doesn’t mean voters don’t care.

“People definitely want to know,” Sutton said.

Without a party label, voters are left guessing, Stephens said.

“It doesn’t make it impossible to know what that person believes, but it does make it more difficult,” Stephens said. “Democrats like to say we have a big tent and we try to be inclusive. There are a lot of different kinds of people involved in the Democrat Party but the thing we have in common is we are all Democrats. There has to be a boundary somewhere.”

GOP contenders

There are six Republicans vying for a shot to run against Congressman Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, this year.

The six Republican candidates share similar platforms on all the salient talking points: they are against the health care bill that passed, they want smaller government, they want to reduce debt and they all pledge to “get the country back on the right track.”

But they have vastly different backgrounds. And despite sharing the standard Republican agenda, there are differences that set them apart, with some further right than others.

 

Jeff Miller, 55, small business owner

Miller runs a dry-cleaning business with 24 employees that was started by his parents. He is married and has a 17-year-old son.

Miller founded Honor Air, a program that charters airplanes to bring groups of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., at no cost to see the WWII monument before they die. His plan was initially to reach all the veterans in Henderson County. But the project took off and by the end of the first year of the project, he had flown 800 veterans to D.C. Last year, the Honor Air network under Miller’s supervision flew 18,000 veterans to D.C. from 35 states.

Why did you decide to run?

“I had never talked about it, never thought about it, but I had a lot of people asking me to do it.”

Those people happened to be what Miller called “bookend generations” that each meant the world to him — his 17-year-old son and WWII veterans who he works closely with through Honor Air flights. They convinced Miller he was the type of common sense leader people were looking for.

What do you hope to accomplish?

“The number one thing we have to do is drive down the national debt. I like to call it beginning the deconstruction of big government.”

What separates you from other candidates?

“I understand the pains and challenges of running a business. I know what it’s like to sign the front of a payroll check and have to back it up. I think right now if there is anything the country needs it is people who have had to balance a budget.”

Miller is more moderate that some candidates.

“I am not a far right-winger. I think both parties have a piece of this mess we are in.”

He avoids bashing the President or the Democratic Party, and he admits there are “some good things” in the health care bill.

www.jeffmiller2010.com

 

Greg Newman, 48, attorney in Hendersonville

Newman is a partner in his firm and practices every type of law, from criminal to civil. He also served as a prosecutor in the 1990s. He served as mayor of Hendersonville for four years. He is married and has three kids ranging from 9 to 20 years old.

Why did you decide to run?

“I saw the fear and worry people were starting to experience. There are a lot of people beginning to think the government is too large, and our kids and grandkids are going to have an enormous tax burden on them. It is that lack of confidence that motivated me to want to get into this thing.”

What do you hope to accomplish?

“I want to restore people’s confidence in our future. We have to make some very bold actions about what we choose to fund in this government.”

What separates you from other candidates?

“I want to be honest with people about what it is going to take to get our fiscal house in order.”

On that note, Newman suggests axing the federal departments of Education, Energy and Homeland Security, considering them a duplication of existing departments or failing to provide any vital services.

“I am the only one who has been bold enough to state specifically what I intended to cut.”

 

Dan Eichenbaum, 67, ophthalmologist in Murphy

Eichenbaum has been a leader in the Tea Party movement and the 9/12 Project in the mountains. Eichenbaum was formerly registered as a Libertarian and ran for county commissioner in Cherokee County in 2002 on the Libertarian ticket. He said he became a Libertarian out of frustration at the direction of the Republican Party at one stage but was “never a big ‘L’ libertarian.”

Why did you decide to run?

Eichenbaum is fed up with government interference in his life and business.

“It got to the point where for the past year or so I have been screaming at my television set and yelling at my satellite radio in my truck.” He even found himself giving political speeches in the shower.

Last spring, he went to the Tea Party in Atlanta on tax day with a homemade sign with a single word: Liberty.

“We get there and there are 20,000 people. I was inspired and empowered.”

He came home and started a chapter of the 9/12 Project that grew from half a dozen to 600 members by the end of the summer. He inadvertently became the leader of a movement, and was ultimately convinced to run by those around him.

What do you hope to accomplish?

“I’ve had a platform from day one: limited government, individual freedom, personal responsibility, fiscal restraint and free market economy. Those are my five tools and my tool belt is the Constitution of the United States.”

What separates you from other candidates?

Eichenbaum said he is more knowledgeable than all the other candidates and has won straw polls at every Republican debate he has been in, which he credits to his ability to define a problem and pose a solution that will work.

“I can speak to those points on any issue anyone will ever ask me about. I am starting to hear my own words come back to me now from some of these other candidates.”

Eichenbaum is sick and tired of top down politics in Washington and RINOS, Republicans In Name Only.


Ed Krause, 63, attorney in Marion

Krause is married and has five grown children and an adopted teenager still at home. He has written three novels set in a fictitious small town in the rural Southern Appalachians. He is a fan of model railroads.

Why did you decide to run?

“I am concerned and upset about the bad economic situation and the government’s inability to solve the problem.”

What do you hope to accomplish?

“We have to pay back the debt. We are mortgaging our children and grandchildren.”

What separates you from other candidates?

“We are all the same. There are only minor differences between us all. I stress that I am a problem solver. I am not a flashy person or eloquent person but I can get the job done.”

 

Kenny West, 52, insurance salesman in Hayesville

West is a representative for Liberty National Life Insurance company focused on businesses accounts and works strictly on commission. He is the eighth ranking salesperson out of 6,800 insurance reps, even though he has only been on the job three years. Before that, he was a regional director with a large company overseing 160 employee that published church directories around the Southeast.

Why did you decide to run?

“When I looked at things going on and the choices being made, I told my wife, ‘This is not the America Kenny West knows.’ I think we forgot about our founding fathers and the principles they stood for when they fought and died for our country.”

West invited over his pastor and friends over to pray and talk about whether West should run while sharing a bucket of chicken wings in his basement one evening.

What do you hope to accomplish?

“I submit to you there is a lack of character in Congress. If we don’t put God and character back in this county, it is over for my children.”

What separates you from other candidates?

West has made his belief in God, his family values and strong Christian principles a central part of his campaign message. He is surprised how absent God is in the other candidates’ platforms.

“I have already been called a theocrat by one of them. Am I a zealot? No, but I am a Christian. All blessings come from God.”

West, a Baptist, represents strong family values. He’s been married just once, never smoked or drank, and doesn’t cheat.

 

James Howard, 72, Franklin

Howard grew up in New York as one of 11 children. He retired to Franklin from Florida in 2002. In Florida, he was a commercial helicopter pilot, but also worked in law enforcement for a stint and owned a real estate title company.

When asked his age, Howard refused, saying it wasn’t an issue in the campaign. “That is the problem with reporters,” he said, and then insisted he was 39. His real age was obtained from his registration information at the board of elections, however.

Why did you decide to run?

Howard filed a class action lawsuit against Congress in 2009 following the passage of the stimulus bill. He filed it without a lawyer, “on behalf of himself and the American taxpayer,” according to the suit.

He claims Congress was “derelict in their duties” and “conspired collectively to undermine the people who hired them with their vote.”

In a nut shell, that’s why he decided to run.

“I am not going to stand by and watch our great country destroy itself under the present leadership of the current Congress,” Howard said. “I am going to give it more than a college try.”

What do you hope to accomplish?

He pledges to always put the interests of those who elected him first.

“They hire me, they elect me, I serve them when I get to Washington.”

What separates you from other candidates?

None of the others have the right experience in the “trenches” of the Republican Party. Howard cited his work as the executive director of the Broward County Republican Party in Florida.

Howard said even if one of the other candidates gets elected, they won’t know what to do when they get to D.C.

“That person will be buried for two years and won’t be able to take his hands out of his pockets. It’s a fraternity up there,” Howard said.

Armor – Eclectic to the nth degree: Highlands Republican wants to pry loose Taylors’ grip on 11th District

When CNN chose John Armor’s web blog as the political site of the day several years ago, coining him an “intellectual redneck” in the process, Armor accepted the tagline proudly.

From his home in Highlands, Armor posts satire columns on the Internet by an invented character, “The (More er Less) Honorable Billybob Congressman” from Western North Carolina. It’s one of many outlets for Armor’s political commentary and humor that floods the journals and digital newsletters of numerous national think tanks, an unwieldy profession that pits Armor as a watchdog of the liberal media one day and a Supreme Court analyst the next.

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