Race to replace Meadows explodes with candidates

ASHEVILLE — With the surprise retirement announcement from Republican Rep. Mark Meadows last year and his district being newly re-drawn, the NC-11 race has drawn a slew of contenders from both sides of the aisle.

There are five Democrat candidates: Gina Collias, Morris “Moe” Davis, Michael O’Shea, Phillip Price and Robert Woodsmall.

The Republican side has more than twice that with eleven: Charles Archerd, Lynda Bennett, Madison Cawthorn, Jim Davis, Dan Driscoll, Dillon Gentry, Steven Fekete, Joseph Wayne King, Joey Osbourne, Vance Patterson, and Albert Wiley, Jr.

As a result of nonpartisan redistricting that took place last year, the district was redrawn to eliminate a boundary line that split Asheville into two congressional districts. The new district covers 17 counties: Avery, Mitchell, Yancey, Madison, Buncombe, McDowell, Polk, Henderson, Transylvania, Jackson, Haywood, Swain, Macon, Clay, Graham, Cherokee and half of Rutherford.

Only state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Macon) has been elected to and currently holds a political office, representing the seven counties in District 50 since 2011. He also served as a Macon County commissioner from 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 to 10. FEC filings show Davis has pulled in $87,971 with $39,407 cash on hand as of Feb. 20. In addition to his fundraising, the American Dental Association Independent Expenditures Committee has spent $95,780 supporting Davis.

Davis, an orthodontist by profession, picked up endorsements from state Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Madison), Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland, Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran, state Rep. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon), and Cherokee County Commissioner Cal Stiles. So far, Davis is the only NC-11 candidate that has earned an “A” rating from and is endorsed by the NRA. Top priorities for Davis include job creation, defending the Trump tax cuts, protecting the unborn, defending the Second Amendment and fighting the opioid epidemic.

Lynda Bennett has garnered the endorsement of the outgoing Meadows, which drew some criticism. Bennett is a friend of Meadows’ wife, Debbie Meadows. According to a report by Politico, Bennett had registered a campaign website on Oct. 28, giving the impression that Bennett had advanced notice of Meadow’s retirement announcement. Bennett, a real estate broker and the vice-chair of the Haywood County GOP, also picked up endorsements from U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, the House Freedom Fund, the Senate Conservative Fund, and the Asheville Tea PAC.

Wayne King, Meadows’ former deputy chief of staff, has racked up endorsements from local officials such as Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin; former Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan; Woodfin Mayor Jerry VeHaun and state Rep. Michele Presnell (R-Yancey). King, who works in NC-11 but does not reside there, has raised $55,115 and has approximately $34,084 cash on hand. His top priorities include protecting the Second Amendment, securing the border and supporting the construction of President Trump’s border wall.

Fundraising is generally a leading indicator when it comes to winning a primary or general election. In that area, with the help of independent expenditures, Lynda Bennett is out in front.

According to FEC filings, Bennett has raised $99,397, spent $3,070, and has cash on hand of $96,327. Outside political groups are also advertising in support of Bennett. Advertising, media, and mailer buys for the month of February so far total $591,107 across three spenders: the House Freedom Action Fund, the House Freedom Fund and the Senate Conservatives Action Fund.

Dan Driscoll is not far behind Bennett, raising $104,225 and reporting cash on hand of $100,017. In support of Driscoll, a U.S. Army Iraqi war veteran, the Honor Fund has spent $360,822 in media buys and digital ads so far for February. Describing himself as an entrepreneur, Driscoll runs an investment firm that helps small businesses.

Charles Archerd is a retired certified public accountant and real estate investor. He has $55,521 cash on hand and ran for Buncombe County Commission chair in 2016.

Madison Cawthorn has reported cash on hand of $78,562 and describes himself as a millennial small business owner.

Joey Osbourne currently has $24,244 cash on hand and his website says he’s the CEO of Authority Franchise Systems LLC, a company he founded in 2009. His profile on LinkedIn says he’s the founder and CEO of Mosquito Authority.

Vance Patterson’s latest filings indicate he has cash on hand of $105,444. Patterson is a businessman in the area of industrial manufacturing. In 2012, Patterson ran for the seat and finished second in a runoff with Meadows.

Albert Wiley’s latest campaign report shows zero dollars cash on hand and a total of $1,807 raised. This is his ninth run for congress since 1984. Like King, he does not live in the district but is a resident of Atlantic Beach. The former nuclear engineer and physician at the U.S. Navy Radiological Defense Lab has promised to move back if he wins.

Two candidates — Steve Fekete and Dillon Gentry — have not filed campaign finance reports with the FEC. Fekete is a retired UPS automotive technician who in the past ran for a seat on the Caldwell County Commission and Gentry is an entrepreneur who ran in the primary for District 5 against U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx in 2018.

No PACs or outside groups have yet made independent expenditures for any Democratic candidate in the primary.

Gina Collias, an attorney who also worked as a real estate broker, has cash on hand of $14,644. She was a Republican until 2016 when she switched parties because she was “concerned over the tone, discourse, and direction of the country.”

Michael O’Shea, who was born in Asheville, identifies as a “millennial progressive Democratic candidate.” He has a reported $5,008 cash on hand.

Phillip Price, a businessman who runs Antique Reclaimed Lumber, has cash on hand of $4,292 and has run for the NC-11 seat before. His 2018 bid for 11th Congressional District Democratic nomination was successful, beating current opponent Robert Woodsmall in the primary, but eventually losing to Meadows in the general election.

Robert Woodsmall is a retired Brevard College professor and retired Air Force major. He has $4,878 cash on hand. Woodsmall was a volunteer for the Transylvania County Planning Board in 2019 and served as executive director for the VISION Transylvania leadership program.

Morris “Moe” Davis is a retired Air Force attorney, judge, and retired Air Force colonel. As of Feb. 12, he has cash on hand of $30,698.

About A.P. Dillon 279 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_