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MossColumn: Counting the curiosities on the 2020 ballot

The top of the ticket savages our airwaves 24 hours a day, amps up emotions among partisans and drives activists to a life of crime —this year not just petty crime.

The aggressive sign destruction by phantoms on either side and the potentially catastrophic hurling of a full gallon water jug at a Jeep in a Trump parade are just the most visible and egregious insignias of the season. To a person, the woeful lament I’ve heard is, “I’ll be glad when this is over.”
We concentrate 99 percent of our political coverage on local races, of course, and in that focus I’ve collided with several curiosities on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Most extraordinary is how the ballot is replete with incumbents who are running for their seats for the first time. Among 12 local races — the contests for the state Legislature, judgeships, a county constitutional office and the Henderson County Board of Commissioners — seven involve incumbents running for their job for the first time. (One more incumbent, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, was appointed in 2016 and has won election to the seat twice.)
Both the Republican incumbents for the state House seats in Henderson County —Jake Johnson and Tim Moffitt — were appointed — Moffitt just 16 days ago.
In the judicial branch, Superior Court Judge Peter Knight and District Court judges Mack McKeller and Kim Gasperson-Justice were all appointed to the seats that they’re now running for for the first time. Same is true of our Clerk of Superior Court, J. Tyler Ray, who is running for the remainder of what started out as Gasperson-Justice’s term and will have to stand for election again in two years to align with the county’s other constitutional offices.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who appoints judges when vacancies occur, went with two Republicans, in Knight and Gasperson-Justice, and went partisan for a third, in McKeller, a Democrat from Brevard.
Appointed on Aug. 3 to the District 2 Board of Commissioners seat made vacant by the death of Charlie Messer, Daniel Andreotta faces Democrat Debbie Roundtree in the Nov. 3 election.
It feels odd to call this the Nov. 3 election. Henderson County passed 50 percent in voter turnout on Monday and the whole state will boast higher than 50 percent turnout before early voting ends on Saturday. Thank the pandemic, voter enthusiasm on either side of the partisan divide and the state’s generous one-stop voting timetable. (Hats off to the county Elections Board, which does a terrific job running early voting.)

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Besides appointees running for office, we spotted another fascinating feature on the 2020 ballot. Henderson County is represented now by the youngest member of the Legislature, in Jake Johnson, 26. If 25-year-old Madison Cawthorn wins election to the U.S. House, our retiree-rich land will be represented by the youngest member of Congress, too.

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You notice these things when you slog through the tedious process of putting together candidate Q&As. Maybe it’s fitting that the School Board race is dominated by the ABCs. The first six names are all frontloaded in the alphabet — Absher, Allbaugh, Bazzle, Bridges, Caskey and Craven. The seventh is a D, Doughty. Only Revis is toward the tail end of the alphabet, although her last name made her a winner in ballot order. Because of this year’s random ordering, she’s listed first. (The state Board of Elections sets the ballot order by first randomly selecting a letter — this year it was O — and then flipping a coin to determine whether candidates are listed in alphabetical order or reverse alphabetical order.)

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I can’t remember the last time we had a husband and wife duo on the ballot. We do this year, with Stacey Caskey running for School Board and Brian Caskey, who is mayor pro tem of Mills River, running for state Senate. The most prominent husband and wife team in my memory are Carroll and Betty Wilkie, who each served one term in the state Senate. After Carroll lost in 1968, Betty exacted Wilkie family revenge in the Nixon landslide of 1972, only to lose herself in the post-Watergate Democratic tidal wave two years later. Betty is famous for making the honeybee the state insect and for the tractor-trailer runaway ramps on I-40 down Old Fort Mountain.
Although I like to think that my attic storage of local politics trivia is prodigious, I have a nagging suspicion that I’m leaving out an important couple or two. Call me or shoot me an email if you know of one.
That’s all from the city desk.
I’ll be glad when this is over.

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Note: My nagging suspicious was right. County Commissioner Rebecca McCall reminded me almost instantly of state Rep. Larry Justus and his wife, Carolyn Justus, who succeeded Larry after his death in 2002. Larry Justus served in the General Assembly from 1985 until his death; Carolyn, who had been his legislative aide, served until 2010. Hat tip to Commissioner McCall.

Contact editor Bill Moss at