House District 115: Rep. Nathan Ramsey (R) vs. John Ager (D)

There are two competitive House seats based in Buncombe County this cycle. The first is the high-profile contest between Rep. Tim Moffitt (R) and Brian Turner (D). The other has been much more low-key but based on the district statistics this should be the easier pickup for Democrats.

The 115th House District takes in Eastern Buncombe County. It’s more of a rural, suburban district, as much of Asheville is contained in the 114th. Nathan Ramsey, 46, of Fairview, a dairy farmer and attorney, is a Republican serving his first term in the State House. Before his election to the House, he served two terms as chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

His opponent in this race is his neighbor and fellow farmer, John Ager, 65, a self-described moderate Democrat. Ramsey is also trying to portray himself as a centrist: in an ad, he touts his willingness to stand up to his own party. But generally, he thinks the General Assembly has done a good job and wants to be reelected to continue his efforts to improve the quality of public education, to reduce burdensome regulations, and to cut wasteful spending.

Ager, the son-in-law of the late U.S. Representative James McClure Clarke, sees things differently. He doesn’t like what the General Assembly has done with education. He’s also criticized Ramsey and Republicans on their handling of the coal ash spill, an issue which resonates in this environmentally-friendly district. He says his business experience with Hickory Gap Nut Farm qualifies him to be a State Representative. Both campaigns draw upon their farming background, and ads from both sides typically depict them behind the wheel of a tractor.

This is one of the most competitive General Assembly races of this cycle, which is no surprise seeing how Mitt Romney only carried this district by 2 points in 2012, on par with his statewide average. Democrats have a strong base of support here in Buncombe-style progressives, but a low ceiling. To win, they’re going to have to make significant inroads with moderate voters.

A poll released by the conservative Civitas Institute in early October seems to indicate that Ager is doing just that. The poll found the Democrat leading by a whopping 13 points, with voters having an unfavorable view of Ramsey. It’s in sharp contrast to a poll taken last August by the Republican caucus, which found Ramsey leading by 6. Both polls are probably off, and the real result is most likely somewhere in the middle. Still, this is definitely one of Democrats’ top pickup opportunities, and they do appear favored now. Right now, the Buncombe State House delegation is 2:1 Republican. If Democrats succeed in knocking off both Ramsey and Moffitt, the delegation will be all Democrat.

Counties in district: Buncombe (part)

District Rating: Tilts Democratic

2012 Result
54.3% Ramsey (R)
45.7% Wilson (D)

Voter Registration
38.5% Democratic
31.0% Republican
30.2% Unaffiliated

93.7% White
2.1% Black
4.2% Other

Results in Other Elections
2012 President
50.5% Romney
48.1% Obama

2012 Governor
52.9% McCrory
44.1% Dalton

2010 Senate
52.8% Burr
44.3% Marshall

2008 Senate
51.4% Hagan
44.7% Dole

Social Media Support
Rep. Nathan Ramsey – 2,784
John Ager – 2,079


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