Avery County

by | Feb 19, 2018 | Features, NC Political Geography | 6 comments

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)

2016 President:

Donald Trump – 76.35%

Hillary Clinton – 20.48%

2016 Senate:

Richard Burr – 75.01%

Deborah Ross – 21.06%

2016 Governor:

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.


  1. Rick Gunter

    Avery County

    Thank you for your county profiles. I just saw the one you posted on Avery County.

    I was born in Avery County, in Crossnore, and was brought into the world by the famous Carolina mountain doctor, Dr. Eustace Sloop.
    But our family was from neighboring Mitchell County, where I was taken after my mother gave birth and where I grew up.

    As you post states, Avery and Mitchell long have been Republican strongholds. Somehow my family gravitated to the Democratic Party. My late grandfather, Charles Smith Gunter, was chairman of the Mitchell County Democratic Party. That had to be one of the most thankless jobs in that part of the state. But he managed more than once to be elected mayor of our town (Spruce Pine). He was an FDR Democrat.

    To this day, and I now am 73 and still working, I cherish the memories of my grandfather, uncles and father. They always talked politics. I eagerly absorbed every word, every memory. They gave me the best education I could have received. I am so thankful to them.

    I grew up to become a newspaperman, the profession my late father surely would have pursued if he had had a more formal education. But he introduced me to newspapers, big-city papers from New York especially, at a young age growing up in the North Carolina mountains. We discussed politics and current affairs daily and especially at dinner. He largely was a self-educated man who knew history and politics inside and out.

    There were two gods in my family while I grew up in Mitchell County – Christ and FDR. There were days when I was unsure which leader enjoyed preeminence in the household! But I was blessed to be part of a family that took citizenship seriously and passed on history and traditions to me. I have tried to do the same with my two sons. They tolerate my little stories and continue to listen to this old man.

  2. bettywhite

    The towns of Beech Mountain and Seven Devils are primarily in Watauga County, not Avery. Avery has been a Republican stronghold for a long time – I don’t think they’ve ever had a Democratic county commissioner. There is a lot of division between longtime residents and those who live in the resort areas. One of Avery’s most famous residents, Hugh Morton, who owned Grandfather Mountain, was a longtime Democrat who probably ruffled a few feathers in Avery!

  3. David c smith

    Avery County (like every profile done so far) is much more complex than can be put into a short piece. Beyond its consistent Republican performance, voters in my home county are very likely to turn out incumbents on their county commissioners… reflective of a small government/government is bad mentality that is at the core of the county. It’s also a county significantly divided between the resort townships (with historically strong Presbyterian influence, and where over 2/3rds of the county’s property tax basis is located but a small percentage of the county’s population) and the remainder of the county (more Baptist, less reliant on tourism).

  4. Bill Clinton

    present republicanism is not directly tied to slavery. You may be equating the fact that after Democrats took up some civil rights issues, southern segregationists crossed over to the GOP with GOP support of slavery. Just because Avery county may have supported the Union doesn’t mean it was progressive for its general area. For all we know, people in Avery County may have been indifferent to slavery but resented other confederate motives.

  5. smartysmom

    ” little common ground with the slaveholders of eastern North Carolina and vehemently opposing secession”

    help me out here please. I find the above beliefs 180 degrees opposite present repiblicanism. What am I missing???

    • Bill clinton

      smartysmom you are missing some things

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