Cory Vaillancourt

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After more than a month of COVID-related social distancing, self-isolation, business and school closures, travel bans and enforced quarantines for non-residents, some Western North Carolina residents are saying they’ve had enough.

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One unfortunate but not unexpected consequence of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Waynesville is that the homeless — who have nowhere to shelter in place — also have no place to wash their hands or defecate, posing a danger to themselves and to the population at large.

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Southwestern Community College Director of Career Services Michael Despeaux has been holding bricks-and-mortar job fairs for almost 20 years, but on Friday, April 24, he’ll hold his very first “virtual job fair” to connect employers and job seekers online. 

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While not yet a humanitarian tragedy in terms of lives lost, the Coronavirus Pandemic has quickly become an economic tragedy in terms of livelihoods lost. Intuitively, local and statewide “stay home” orders have resulted in large-scale unemployment, but counterintuitively, there are still plenty of places putting out the proverbial  “now hiring” signs all across Western North Carolina. 

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Heavy rains and high winds associated with strong storms last Sunday night led to plenty of headaches Monday morning, as downed limbs cut power and closed roads while swollen streams slipped their banks, flooding businesses and residences across Western North Carolina.

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Of late, many businesses and individuals have been forced to re-evaluate how they do things, but municipal governments are also grappling with governing in the age of social distancing and the “stay home” orders part and parcel to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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Lost in the struggle to combat the Coronavirus Pandemic is the fact that local governments have already begun incurring unanticipated costs related to COVID-19 response.

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More help is on the way for small business owners now that several nonprofits have teamed up with Haywood County government to create a fund that will soon begin issuing loans to companies affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

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The irony’s not lost on many that one of the most essential businesses affecting the lives of people around the world is the business of death. 

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Workers affected by layoffs associated with the Coronavirus Pandemic are still reporting major problems with North Carolina’s unemployment benefit system almost four weeks after North Carolina’s hospitality industry was effectively shuttered by executive order.

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Less than two weeks after issuing a joint proclamation restricting movement to essential activity only, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners has extended the duration of that proclamation by 18 days.

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I have a childhood friend from Chicago — we nicknamed him “Lucky” — who messed up bad and deserved what he got but he was penitent and he wasn’t a rotten guy and it wasn’t a life sentence.

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For weeks now, people have been asking why a county of 60,000 people like Haywood hadn’t yet reported a case of COVID-19, even as national, state and local leaders have cautioned that it’s a “when, not if” proposition.

According to a press release issued by the Haywood County Sheriff’s office around 11:15 this morning, that “when” is now.

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When the first rumors of a strange new contagious pneumonia-like illness began circulating in China late last fall, few could have imagined that the coronavirus outbreak would grow to become the global pandemic that it is today. 

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Following the lead of several other municipalities, corporations and co-ops, the Town of Waynesville has temporarily suspended billing-related water and electric shutoffs for its residential customers in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

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As the greatest public health crisis in more than a hundred years continues to ravage both the physical and fiscal health of the world, the nation and the state of North Carolina, a group of 15 Democratic candidates is calling for the immediate expansion of Medicaid.

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As expected, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an order earlier this afternoon directing residents to avoid all unnecessary activity outside the home.

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On the morning of March 26, the Haywood County Board of Commissioners became the latest public body in North Carolina to issue restrictions on movement in an effort to halt the spread of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to spread, Haywood County and all four of its municipalities will now prohibit non-essential activity through April 16.

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Tuesday, March 17 started like almost any other day for Dave Angel, owner of Elevated Mountain Distilling Company in Maggie Valley. 

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Last Tuesday, on what would normally be a bustling St. Patrick’s Day, owner Dan Elliot sat in his empty Sweet Onion restaurant in the heart of Waynesville’s downtown tourist district just after sharing some difficult news with his staff of 34 employees. 

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The Republican Second Primary Election between Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn in the 11th Congressional District will now be held six weeks later than originally scheduled.

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As a professional multimedia artist and photographer living in Western North Carolina since 2002, Luba Petrova still remembers the first piece of art she ever created.

Since the beginning of the year, the Second Amendment sanctuary movement has swept through North Carolina, with the majority of counties passing resolutions in opposition to any potential measures that might infringe upon the right to bear arms. 

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Of all the socioeconomic and educational weaknesses lain bare by the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 perhaps none is more disturbing than the fact that the closure of public schools has resulted for many children not just in a loss of education, but also a loss of nutrition. 

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Waynesville’s Russ Avenue Ingles already has one of the largest commercial footprints in Haywood County, but if plans filed with the Town of Waynesville’s Development Services Department by the regional grocer come to fruition, it will get even larger. 

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Haywood County Schools board members got their first look at a proposed budget for the next fiscal year last week, which contained few surprises and continued to concentrate on some much-needed capital improvement projects. 

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There’s a strong, long-held sentiment here in rural Western North Carolina that the region is often overlooked when balanced against the state of North Carolina as a whole, but unofficial results from the March 3 Primary Election show that the counties that make up this rugged, mountainous region are more important politically than ever before. 

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A tweet issued by President Donald Trump on the evening of March 6 made Rep. Mark Meadows’ next move pretty clear, but clarity’s in short supply when it comes to who will represent the 16 counties of Western North Carolina in Congress for the rest of the year. 

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Days after uncertified results from the Democratic Primary Election showed Buncombe County Sen. Terry Van Duyn finishing second to Raleigh Rep. Yvonne Holley, Van Duyn’s decided not to call for a runoff.

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After more than two months of speculation as to his next move, Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows will become President Donald Trump’s next chief of staff, as declared by the president in a tweet earlier tonight.

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Republican voters in seven western counties have again decided that a candidate from Franklin, in Macon County, should be their voice in the N.C. Senate.

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It looks like one of North Carolina’s longest-running political feuds will go another round. 

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When Canton businessman Brandon Rogers led the county commission ticket in 2016, he helped narrow the Democratic majority from 4-to-1 to 3-to-2. 

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Once Judge Richard K. Walker announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, four Republicans from three of the seven counties in the 30th Judicial District jumped into the race.

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Last fall, few people expected to be devoting so much time, energy and money to two Primary Election races in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. 

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When Super Tuesday dawned in Western North Carolina, most voters awoke to torrential downpours, but the heavy rain doesn’t seem to be keeping them away from the polls.

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Six Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination in the lieutenant governor’s race; one of nine Republicans also seeking the seat left vacant by Republican Dan Forest’s run for governor will face off with the winning Democrat in November.

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With the departure of Lt. Gov Dan Forest – running for governor and with a primary contest of his own – comes nine candidates seeking to replace him. The winner of the GOP primary will face one of six Democrats competing against each other for the right to do the same.

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Charlotte Republican Ronald Pierce will again challenge incumbent Commissioner of Insurance and fellow Republican Mike Causey. In 2016, Pierce finished third in a field of three in the contest for the Republican nomination that eventually went to Causey. One candidate — Causey or Pierce — will face the Democrat Causey beat in 2016, Wayne Goodwin. 

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The office of State Auditor might be the most unnoticed, misunderstood agency in the state, but the job is tremendously important — keeping track of how the state’s agencies spend their money. Longtime Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, has a primary challenger for the first time this year. The winner of that Democratic Primary Election will face one of two Republicans in November. 

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On Tuesday, March 3, Republican Primary voters will be asked to choose between three candidates for the Secretary of State race. The winner will face five-term Democratic incumbent Elaine Marshall in November. 

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Two Republican candidates, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Rep. Holly Grange are seeking their party’s nomination for the November gubernatorial election. Although Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has a primary opponent, he’s expected to cruise to victory on March 3, setting up a match with either Forest or Grange.  

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Three Republican candidates have thrown their hat in the ring with hopes of taking out U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis during the March 3 Primary Election. The winner will face one of five Democrats also seeking the seat in November. 

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The Smoky Mountain News: What do you think the biggest issue is in the primary right now?

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Audio purporting to depict the full context of a discussion in which Lynda Bennett can be heard expressing disdain for President Donald Trump raises serious doubts about allegations that she’s a “never Trumper.”

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Waynesville’s elected officials, administrators and department staff were supposed to spend Feb. 21 talking about the year’s upcoming budget — which they did, for nearly six hours — but the board also took immediate action on several issues deemed too important to wait. 

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There are plenty of arguments for getting money out of politics, but anybody who wants to get money out of politics must first have money to get into politics to get money out of politics.

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When most people think about exciting election action, they don’t often think about judgeships. 

Judicial races are not usually contested, they’re not usually competitive and so they’re not usually talked about much, for all of those reasons. 

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(Editor's note: This story was originally published on Feb. 22, but has been updated with new information as of Feb. 25.)   

A Smoky Mountain News investigation into a mysterious handout distributed at polling places during early voting casts serious aspersions on the legitimacy of an endorsement of congressional candidate Lynda Bennett by a previously unknown, hastily formed political action committee with ties to one of her campaign consultants.

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