Hendersonville City Council member Jeff Collis, embroiled in a dispute over whether the Henderson County Republican Party is attempting to influence the nonpartisan city elections, released an email Saturday that he says shows the GOP's fingerprints on electioneering.
An unsuccessful candidate for the City Council also told the Hendersonville Lightning that someone approached her about making campaign calls for mayoral candidate Ron Stephens, although she said she declined to make the calls.
The email Collis forwarded appeared to be from someone who had attended a Henderson County Republican Party meeting on Oct. 17.
"At the Thursday p.m. HC GOP meeting, we were encouraged to assist mayoral candidate Ron Stephens make non-HC GOP/personal volunteer telephone calls to City of Hendersonville registered Republicans to get out the vote for the 8 Nov City elections," the email said. "I took on one of the ten lists. I do not know if it was 500 or 2,500 names per ten lists. Friday, I immediately lined-up someone to assist me make the calls hoping she would enlist her support retinue.
"She had unsuccessfully run for City Council. I sought Ron's approval to use her as she was interested in the City's leash law ordinances. And she was willing to be on any committee in that regard. Ron's telephone listing & 411 telephone number was not viable. I asked Andrew Riddle to provide me Ron's contact no."
Guri Andermann, a City Council candidate who favors a city ordinance outlawing chaining of dogs, said Sunday that she did receive the request but had not made any calls on Stephens' behalf.
"I was approached by Ed Suarez and asked to make calls on behalf of Ron Stephens," she said.
The email does not say who encouraged the committee members to make the calls on Stephens' behalf. It mentions Stephens and not Miller.
Collis charged in a letter to media outlets and in an interview last week that the GOP was attempting to influence the City Council race for Stephens and Miller.
"With all the partisan mess we see going on in State and Federal Politics, it has always been a privilege to serve in a NON-Partisan elected seat," Collis said in the letter. "I have to admit, it is very disappointing to see the Henderson County Republican Party endorse Ron Stephens and Jeff Miller for NON-Partisan seats on council, without so much as a phone call, questionnaire or interview of ALL candidates, some fellow Republicans."
Both Stephens, who is running for mayor, and Miller, who is challenging Collis and Jerry Smith for one of two seats on the council, both said they did not ask for a GOP endorsement, and both said they had not been contacted by Republican leaders about one.
Ralph Freeman, a city council candidate defeated in the Oct. 8 primary, told the Hendersonville Lightning last week that he had received two calls on primary Election Day urging him to vote. The callers identified themselves as Republicans but did not name a candidate, Freeman said.
"This was one email that I received permission to pass on today," Collis said. "As I said before, the information I received was the endorsement of both Jeff M and Ron by Andrew Riddle by letter. I think this email shows that Andrew isn't telling the truth in his statements that the GOP hasn't been involved."
The email Collis forwarded appeared to be from Suarez and addressed to 10 people, including past GOP chairman Mike Scruggs, current chairman Andrew Riddle, vice chairman Glen Englram and treasurer Wally Booth. Riddle has denied that the party has had any role in the city election. Miller said he has not asked for the endorsement of any political party and remains committed to running a nonpartisan campaign for the nonpartisan council seat.
State voter records show an Edward I. Suarez registered as a Republican in the Etowah South precinct. Suarez, vice chairman of the precinct, had not returned a call from the Hendersonville Lightning on Sunday.
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