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Edwards wins nomination for state Senate seat

Denise Riddle hands out campaign material for Chuck Edwards and Elise Wall handbills for Coty Ferguson on Tuesday at Flat Rock Village Hall. Denise Riddle hands out campaign material for Chuck Edwards and Elise Wall handbills for Coty Ferguson on Tuesday at Flat Rock Village Hall.

Hendersonville businessman Chuck Edwards surged to victory in the Republican primary for the 48th state Senate District on Tuesday, turning back a spirited but underfunded challenge from Tea Party favorite Lisa Carpenter Baldwin.

Dennis Justice, a Fletcher resident who has run repeatedly over the past 20 years for the School Board, Board of Commissioners and Fletcher mayor, finished third. Edwards led 56 to 35 percent with 63 percent of precincts reporting.
Edwards, a self-made entrepreneur who started flipping hamburgers at age 16 at the Spartanburg Highway McDonald’s and ended up owning seven of the franchises, ran as a nonpolitician who would bring practical experience and conservative values to Raleigh. If he wins in November Edwards would replace state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a 14-year veteran who rose to power with the Republican tide of 2010 and 2012 and serves as Senate Rules Committee chairman. Besides his McDonald’s ownership, Edwards owns a self-storage business and real estate firm and serves on the board of Entegra Bank, the former Macon Bank.
Edwards will go into the November election a heavy favorite in a district that is overwhelmingly Republican and centered on Henderson County. He faces Democrat Norm Bossert, a Pisgah Forest resident and principal of Black Mountain Elementary School who lost a bid for the state House in 2014.
A resident of Fletcher, Baldwin wore her iconoclastic service on the Buncombe County School Board as a badge of honor — touting her battles against Common Core and what she derided as the liberal majority of her board peers. She had the support of the Blue Ridge Tea Party Patriots, a Hendersonville faction that also supported Cody Henson in the 113th state House District primary.
Using a war chest of $120,000, the Edwards campaign bombarded voters with slick mailers branding Baldwin as a politician who had “failed to bring conservative change to Buncombe County” and had served as “bureaucrat in the federal government.” She lacked Edwards’s real-life experience in creating jobs, the mailers said. Instead “her private sector experience consists of writing a newspaper column and blog.”
In contrast, “Chuck is NOT a politician,” the campaign flier said. He has created 390 jobs at his restaurants. “As a small business owner, Chuck was a trusted voice for tax reform in 2013.”
Campaign finance report covering Jan. 1-Feb. 29 showed that Edwards had raised a total of $120,671 — including $80,000 in personal loans he made to his camnpaign — and spent $92,014. Baldwin said she raised and spent about $7,500.
Edwards tapped a reliable well of Republican donors in Henderson County, raising $26,421. With the help of Apodaca, who hosted a fundraiser in Raleigh for the candidate he endorsed for his seat, Edwards took in $13,000 more from PACs.
Edwards, a former chairman of the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce and the recipient of $1,000 from the NC Chamber PAC, fought off charges from Baldwin that he had supported amnesty.
“It is absolutely false that I have ever asked for amnesty,” he said at a campaign event in February. “What I was for is (a solution) when the farmers in this area came to the Chamber of Commerce and asked for our help because they saw many many states around us beginning to take care of this terrible immigration problem.”
Apodaca delivered a strong endorsement of Edwards 10 days before the primary.
“I know Chuck Edwards is a great businessman and a no-nonsense, principled conservative who will use decades of private-sector experience to fight for Western North Carolina and solve problems in Raleigh,” he said. “We
desperately need more leaders with Chuck’s mountain values and real-world leadership in public office. Lisa and I look forward to voting for Chuck Edwards on March 15.”
While Edwards seemed to hold much of the Republican rank and file, Baldwin claimed the support of the Tea Party wing.

In his endorsement of Baldwin, former Henderson County GOP chairman Mike Scruggs called her “a very bright, persistent and courageous lady” who during her School Board tenure had proved to be “a relentless and often hard-fighting advocate for sound academic and administrative policies.”

Baldwin was not ready to say Tuesday night whether she plans another race in the future.

“I’m planning to keep fighting for Christian values, transparency in government and accountability,” she said. “No matter what, I’m not going to change who I am. I would like to thank my supporters for the love they have shown. I will cherish the many new friends I made during the campaign and most of all I want to thank God for this opportunity to stand for Biblical values.”


Henson wins House 113 primary

Cody Henson swept to an easy victory in the 113th state House District, defeating Coty James Ferguson for the Republican nomination for the seat held by Rep. Chris Whitmire.
A Whitmire protégé, Henson credited his volunteers for the victory.
“We had a lot of local support,” he said. “A lot of people who were very interested not only in our nation and state but also local races. I look forward to a good clean campaign in November to hopefully keep the seat for the Republicans. We’re just going to keep spreading our Christian conservative message and let the voters of the 113th District decide.”