Located in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains on the border with Tennessee, Avery County is the youngest in our state – it was created in 1911 from parts of Caldwell, Mitchell, and Watauga counties, bringing the total number of Tar Heel counties to an even one hundred. Avery is a relatively small county, with no major population centers and a population of 18,072 as of mid-2017. The county seat is the town of Newland, although the largest municipality is the nearby town of Banner Elk. Other towns in the county include Beech Mountain, Crossnore, Elk Park, Grandfather Village, Seven Devils, and Sugar Mountain, although none contain more than a few hundred residents – this is unlikely to change, as the county is experiencing a slow growth rate typical of rural areas in the state.
Avery County is part of the High Country, a distinct region encompassing the mountainous terrain of northwestern North Carolina. Notable geographic features including Grandfather Mountain, Beech Mountain, and Linville Caverns bring nature lovers and sightseers to the area throughout the year, with ski resorts and tourist lodgings proving to be particularly lucrative. Other industries in the county consist of beef cattle farming, Christmas tree production, and related forms of agriculture, and annual events including the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and the Banner Elk Art Festival generate additional revenue.
The High Country was marked by overwhelming support for the Union during the Civil War, with mountain dwellers finding little common ground with the slaveholders of eastern North Carolina and vehemently opposing secession. Union sympathies in the High Country sprouted a strong Republican heritage that has been present in Avery County since its formation – Avery has voted Republican in every presidential election since it was created, with the sole exception of supporting Teddy Roosevelt’s breakaway Bull Moose ticket during the county’s first election in 1912. Avery regularly provides Republican nominees with support in the 70% and 80% ranges, making it one of the most overwhelmingly Republican counties in the state – and often in the nation.
1992 Presidential PVI: R+37 (Safe Republican)
1996 Presidential PVI: R+45 (Safe Republican)
2000 Presidential PVI: R+49 (Safe Republican)
2004 Presidential PVI: R+49 (Safe Republican)
2008 Presidential PVI: R+52 (Safe Republican)
2012 Presidential PVI: R+54 (Safe Republican)
2016 Presidential PVI: R+58 (Safe Republican)
Donald Trump – 76.35%
Hillary Clinton – 20.48%
Richard Burr – 75.01%
Deborah Ross – 21.06%
Pat McCrory – 73.55%
Roy Cooper – 24.15%
Avery County and its neighbor, Mitchell, are the two consistently most Republican counties in North Carolina – over 60% of voters in both counties are registered Republicans, the highest proportions statewide. Avery and Mitchell extend their strong support for Republicans to Council of State elections within North Carolina, as neither member of the duo has ever supported a Democrat for statewide office.
Avery’s loyalty to the Republican Party extends to local races – every incumbent member of its county commission is a Republican, and no Democrat has even filed for countywide office since 2012. The county’s steadfast Republicanism is reflected in its congressional and legislative representation, as Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-05), state Senator Deanna Ballard (SD-45), and state Representative Josh Dobson (HD-85) are all Republicans.
Today, social conservatives and wealthy retirees cement Avery County’s continued support for Republicans, leaving little room for Democrats to even compete in elections. Avery County is completely Republican down to the precinct level, and unless an unforeseen trend in our nationwide political environment appears, Avery will likely never abandon its GOP heritage.