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In surprising move, Sen. Terry Van Duyn backs Asheville council districts ahead of vote

Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn conceded she expects the Republican-backed bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Edwards to pass Monday during a House vote. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Asheville City Council could be less than eight days from facing a state law that would require new voting districts for what are now at-large council members.

Democratic Sen. Terry Van Duyn conceded she expects the Republican-backed bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Edwards to pass Monday during a House vote. She said, because she expected the bill to pass, she began conversations with Edwards about a compromise to the bill. Van Duyn said the compromise will be added as an amendment.

Van Duyn said, after speaking with council members, she requested the bill have a provision that council members are elected on even-numbered years that typically have higher voter turnout numbers.

“I do see it as inevitable,” Van Duyn said.

The majority of cities have district representation, and Asheville is one of a handful that still vote in members from across a municipality.

“She thinks it's in the best interest of the city of Asheville to allow this bill to pass with her amendment,” said councilman Vijay Kapoor, a democrat who lives in South Asheville and won election as an at-large candidate in 2017.

Edwards, who is sponsoring the proposal, has not returned News 13’s repeated requests for comment.

Last year, Mayor Esther Manheimer spearheaded a referendum vote placed on the November ballot asking voters if they wished to go to a district-vote system. Seventy-five percent of voters said no.

Republican leaders think the district approach will more fairly represent residents.

Van Duyn said she thought it was better to have dialogue with Edwards than to shut off the conversation and not have any bipartisan dialogue to finesse some minor amendments to the bill that she thinks will likely become law, if it passes in the House after Monday’s vote in the Senate.

“So, I am in a super-minority,” Van Duyn said. “What that means is they (Republicans) have the votes to do whatever they want to do.”

The question remains if the city of Asheville will consider filing a lawsuit to protest the potential law if it gets passed during the last five days of the session next week.

"First, we need to see what's actually going to come out of the General Assembly,” Kapoor said. “To see if this bill is actually passed.”

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