Mayor of Asheville Terry Bellamy has announced that she will once again run for Congress from the 10th congressional district.
The first time Bellamy ran, she faced off against Patsy Keever, a state legislator who severely cut into Bellamy’s base in Buncombe County. Assuming that Keever does not also run again, Bellamy should be considered the strong favorite for the Democratic nomination.
But the Democratic nomination might not be so valuable. Though the city of Asheville is located within NC-10, the liberalism of Asheville is overwhelmed by the strong GOP territory around Gastonia. This, of course, is not a coincidence: GOP legislators knew what they were doing when they reshaped the 10th. A candidate from Asheville will also have trouble appealing to the rest of the district, which is culturally very conservative.
Bellamy’s record is more centrist than one might expect given the municipality she governed. For one thing, she voted against extending domestic partnerships to gay and lesbian couples. That’s a position that was probably to the right of most of her constituents, and one that might have hurt her in the Democratic primary back in 2012, when same-sex marriage was on the ballot.
In addition to the strong Republican lean of the 10th district, Bellamy may be handicapped by her race. Whites constitute 84% of registered voters here. A black mayor from liberal Asheville might be too far a reach for 10th district voters, regardless of what her positions may be.
The most interesting question of the 10th district race might be who the Republican nominee will be. At this point, it’s unclear if incumbent Representative Patrick McHenry plans to run for the Senate, but if he does then this will be an open seat situation. There are a number of Republican officeholders who could run here, and any of them would be a strong favorite over Bellamy, or any other Democrat.
Ultimately, the strongest Democrat here would be someone in the mold of Heath Shuler. But for such a candidate to be nominated, he would have to win the support of liberal Asheville in the primary. And therein lies the problem – Asheville will decide the Democratic primary. But it can’t decide the general election.