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Morales drops out, endorses Smith, Roundtree for City Council

Raphael Morales endorsed Jerry Smith and Debbie Roundtree after announcing that he is dropping out of the City Council race. Raphael Morales endorsed Jerry Smith and Debbie Roundtree after announcing that he is dropping out of the City Council race.

Raphael Morales, who styled his campaign for City Council as a voice for the voiceless, silenced himself on Saturday, declaring that he is withdrawing from the race and endorsing three-term incumbent Jerry Smith and challenger Debbie Roundtree.

The 31-year-old activist, musician and current line cook made the announcement Saturday afternoon during a candidate meet-and-greet sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
“I think it’s really important to understand that Hendersonville is predominantly unaffiliated and it’s not a partisan city and the nation itself is not a partisan country despite what political media would try to tell us politicians on the campaign trail,” he said. “I think it’s important that Hendersonville acknowledge that experience is key and we do have folks that have that experience. Jerry Smith has tremendous experience. I have endorsed Jerry Smith for another term on the City Council. He’s sensible and approachable and he’s a nice guy.”
Whatever he says or does publicly, Morales can’t affect the ballot. The deadline to formally withdraw is long past, so his name will appear on the general election ballot along with three others.
He took a shot at Chelsea Walsh, the former Republican Party chair who was the fourth candidate to emerge from the six-person primary on Tuesday. 
“I can acknowledge that Chelsea Walsh resigned from the Republican Party four days after filing,” he said. “That’s a very strong party affiliation. Debbie and Jerry are nonpartisan. This tit for tat that’s going on with the GOP purchasing smear ads is really sort of toxic for our community discourse. I think the people that came out to support us understand that. I think it’s important to understand that we cannot allow our votes to be split to allow a candidate like Chelsea Walsh to be elected to City Council.
“It’s my hope to rally my supporters behind Jerry Smith and Debbie Roundtree. Debbie’s been doing a lot of community organizing and she’s been running for a long time and I think it’s her time.”
Walsh, who also attended the campaign event at Patton Park, brushed aside Morales’ charge that she was contributing to a toxic campaign environment.
“I’m not partisan,” she said. “I’m using sustainability as one of my platforms. It says I’m Republican on my voter registration so if anybody asks me if I’m Republican I don’t lie. But I’m running in a nonpartisan race, my party affiliation is not on the ballot and if the GOP wants to back me I respect that.
“I’m running a nonpartisan race. I’m running a race based on advocacy, not activism,” she said, subtly returning Morales's fire. “Activism is just one track, no compromise, no negotiation, for one specific demographic usually, but they’re not advocates for the entire community. It doesn’t matter if they’re in your social circle or not, whether you go to church with them or not, you have to be an advocate for the entire community.”
The Henderson County Republican Party paid for a campaign mailer, she said, adding that her broader donor base had funded her billboard campaign.
Both Smith and Roundtree posed for handshake pictures with Morales.
“I’m grateful at this point,” said Roundtree, who has run multiple times for either a City Council or Board of Commissioners seat. “Any support I get from anybody I’m grateful. I’m a people person.”
Smith also expressed gratitude.
“I appreciate any support I get for my race for City Council,” he said. “Just do the numbers — a candidate dropping out will definitely help the rest of us that are running for City Council. Anyone that’s run for City Council and has made it through the primary, I would not turn down their support. I’ve said throughout my campaign — being unaffiliated, I want everybody to feel comfortable voting for Jerry because of things that are important to me. I’m honored that anyone would want to throw their support my way. … We have a Democrat, a Republican and me.”
Chatter on social media has focused on evidence that Morales, who has a conviction for vandalizing a painting at Asheville Regional Airport, has been known to drive even though his license is revoked.
“I’m not driving right now,” he said. “I saw that (on Facebook) and I went to the courthouse.” He discovered, he said, that he had a seatbelt violation in 2017 and a licensed revocation in 2018. “I have been driving with a revoked license for three years now. I just did not know that.” He said he was able to go to court on Wednesday to restore his driving privilege and got a court date in December.
Walsh suggested that Morales’ explanation of his revoked license doesn’t add up.
“If you are going to run for candidacy, regardless if it is the municipal level, the state level, the federal level, you have to know who you are as a person,” she said. “And if you don’t know who you are or (don’t know) things that are attached to your name you have no business being in a race.”