While located in the heart of Appalachia, Buncome County’s politics are quite distinct from the rest of the region. This is in no small part due to the influence of Asheville, one of the largest cities in the state and known for its liberal, ‘hippie’ vibe. The county is also home to the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Up until recently, Buncome was a swing area. But as Asheville has grown, it has become a reliable area for Democrats. Although Democrats do poorly in the outlying rural areas, Asheville alone is strong enough to propel a Democratic candidate to victory. Even Elaine Marshall, swamped by Richard Burr in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, was able to carry Buncombe.
1988: R+9 (Leans Republican)
1992: R+3 (Toss-Up)
1996: R+6 (Leans Republican)
2000: R+9 (Leans Republican)
2004: D+2 (Toss-Up)
2008: D+7 (Leans Democratic)
2012: D+8 (Leans Democratic)
Prognosis: Buncome’s growth rate during the 2000s was 15.5% – above average. As seen from the election results, this growth has probably helped Democrats. A degree of self-sorting is occurring, with Asheville’s reputation attracting liberals from all over the country. This has helped to reinforce the liberal tendencies of the city. The county has also seen in-migration from a number of retirees, particularly from Florida, but this influx of seniors has not benefited Republicans.
Buncombe has come a long way from when George W. Bush was able to narrowly carry the county in 2004. Realistically, the county is “gone” for Republicans on a statewide and nationwide level, though it notably has a majority-Republican delegation in the General Assembly. Even a strong Republican candidate, running in a strong year, will have difficulty carrying Buncombe.