Events still to come:
1. Zillocoa Brewery Meet and Greet, Dem Precincts 3.1 and 17.1 April 26th, Tuesday 4 to 6 pm
2. . Zoom interview with the Democratic Socialists of America (former Bernie supporters I think) at 7 pm April 27th.
3. East Asheville Precinct's Forum, Saturday, April 30, 10-11:30 at
Hawthorne Villages Clubhouse (They'll be me and 4 other candidates so they'll be plenty of time to speak and ask questions and hobnob).
4E Hedgerose Ct 28805
4. Drinks With Democrats, Pisgah Brewing, 2948 US 70. (Black Mountain and Swannoa Democratic Cluster). May 4th 5-7pm
Old EVENTS and descriptions of them:
1. Young Democrats Meeting, Wednesday, March 17th at White Duck Taco on the river. Here's my take on it:
Vote COURTNEY BOOTH for Asheville DA!
I got to have an extensive conversation with her last night at the Young Democrats meeting at White Duck Taco,
and deeply feel she will never kill anyone (call for the death penalty) as our current DA has 3 times despite his campaign pledge not to, (according to Courtney whom I took the leap of faith of believing.)
The Young Dems are a vibrant group of about 20 powerful souls who are working hard for Progressive change, including their President, the joyful and clever Kristin Robinson.
I also met the wonderful lawyer and public defender Martin Moore who is running unopposed in the Dem primary (lucky dog!) for County Commissioner from District 3. He is brilliant and eloquent and is allies with Courtney in trying to inject compassion and equality into Buncombe's train wreck of a legal system for minorities.
They gave us candidates 5 blessed minutes to speak and 5 to discuss and I felt good about my address, in part because I only planned for one minute to speak and had to go on without the net of a printed speech that I always have.
The weather was perfect with just enough cool for invigoration but not cold vibration, minds incredibly open, conversation amazingly cordial with the noble French Broad glistening enchantingly from the 240 bridge lights and the radiance of democracy being practiced sincerely and elegantly.
2. Speech for the Breakfast With Progressives, Saturday, March 19th, at Green Sage restaurant on Merrimon Avenue/Edgewood Rd, (former Atlanta Bread Company) beginning at 10:00 am-12:30. Outdoors on their porch. Arranged by Cheryl Orengo. Here's the link to the speech.
Thanks to Cheryl, Anne Craig, and Lorrie Streifel for helping, and Cecil Bothwell for telling us about the ruse of the Open Space Zoning and the consolidation of committees from 20 to 4 by the city. Felt like a great way to start the campaign, after the Young Democrats of course. I had plenty of time to lay out most of my views, got a few laughs, and had a great inspriting time. Randy Bernard asked if Ukraine had had the F-35s, would Russia attacked. I said, maybe not, or maybe Putin would have had to go directly to nuclear weapons. Another man wondered why we should be worried about 20% of the plant being for weapons. I said would you feel the same way if the Mafia was in had good restaurants and nightclubs but 20% of their operations was murder, extortion and racketeering. Well the military industrial complex is much worse than the Mafia, destroying and killing millions Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, making America much less safe.
3. Filming session at J & W Cafeteria at River Ridge Mall March 19, by Bailey Lynn who will broadcast the finished product as much and on as many platforms as she can.
What a wonderful service provided by Bailey, David and others. The questions, coming from the police, firefighters, CAN and many other sources, were tough but the production values were high with three cameras and a professional looking backdrop and lighitng. I'll be posting the video in about a week. Also got to see my old friend, CAN hyperactivist Barbra Melton. She's still the power behind the scenes of so much!
Here's the video of interview:
Bill Branyon Commissioner District 1 - YouTube
4. Had a great canvassing-training session last night (March 22) at the voting spot just behind Kenilworth Presbyterian Church for Democratic precincts 7.1 (Kenilworth) and 20.1 (Chunn’s Cove).
It was a coming home to me of sorts since I was precinct chair of 7.1 about 4 to 6 years ago. (Time jumbles up!)
Mary Prosser (7.1 precinct chair) professionally and entertainingly coordinated the meeting that was so thorough and organized that I came away with greater confidence in the potential for the BCDP to get out the vote, even in a primary.
Assisted by Kathy Kline, Janeen Donovan and Windy (whose last name I didn’t get), the group covered, for the about 30 people present:
How to knock on doors, handle Covid concerns and avoid dogs; evaluate the receptiveness of those answering, make sure where-when-and-to how they could get to the polls; and how take down relevant information for the Votebuilder stats of the BCDP and use the phone app MiniVann for immediate voter info recording.
The Democratic Party can rest easy when considering Kenilworth and Chunn’s Cove. Those vital vote bases are in the best possible precinct worker hands.
On a sadder note, some of the attendees told me about the death of Dick Warren a while back. He was my Kenilworth mentor and was a great person who I got to know well, gave guitar lessons to, and spent many an early morning setting up the tent he supplied for the Presbyterian Church voting site and other fine GOV techniques and old school wise and compassionate politicking.
5. WNC Labor Council/AFL-CIO speech and discussion at 6pm at 45 Sardis Road March 23rd (near Biltmore Square Mall and Outlets).
Ron Ingerick, the welcoming President of the WNC Central Labor Council, jovially greeted me to the Teamsters Union Hall on Sardis Rd., not far from Biltmore Square Outlet Mall, on a blustery, sunny and rainy March day. The Hall is a nice, 2000 square foot converted house and the meeting was in the basement where Ron’s daughter signed us in.
While waiting for my 15-minute turn, my distinguished opponent, Al Whitesides joined me and my treasurer, Larry Abbot. We had a cordial conversation in which I informed Al why I was running, and he lamented the polarization of society, while noting the need for more good-paying jobs in Asheville.
Then I walked into a room with about 25 determined workers who keep the nuts and bolts of Buncombe County running, workers who included the AFGE (Government Employees) APWU (Postal Workers) ATU (Bus Drivers), CWA (Communication), IAFF (Firefighters), IATSE ( International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), IBEW (Electrical) IBT, (Teamsters) NALC (Letter Carriers) NNU (Nurses) SMART (Sheet Metal, Air, Railroad and Transportation) and USW (Steelworkers.)
I told them of my union experience having worked in factories, my being a member of the National Writer’s Union, and how I’d be their representative on the Commission, helping union organization every way I could.
One person asked what I’d do to prevent Pratt and Whitney and Raytheon from using nefarious tactics to prevent its unionization. I said I’d focus the full attention of the Commission and press on the election, work with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to ensure the election was fair and avoided intimidation, and continue to monitor the plant for months and years after to ensure workers weren’t fired for voting in favor of a union.
Another asked if I could get along well enough with my fellow Commission members to get anything done. I said that I was already friends with Commission Chair Brownie Newman, and Al, and would use this maxim to build other alliances: “Everyone is doing the best they can given their view of the world, and everyone’s opinion about the world is correct from their point of view.” In other words, I don’t think of anyone as good or bad, crooked or straight, but as just another person struggling for meaning and what they see as what’s best for them and society. Thus I separate politics from people and like most folks.
As I left, Al went in. I wished I stayed to see his performance, but I felt it was not cricket to do so. That evening I saw a complete, 180-degree rainbow over Grace Episcopal Church on Merrimon, and I felt the omens smiled, at least for a while.
6. Buncombe County Democratic Convention March 26, 10 am at Ferguson Center on the A-B Tech Campus. This is the chance to communicate with the most active of Buncombe County's Democrats. My hope is great turnout for the campaign at about 9 am to set up our tabling and to pass out brochures. Only a 2 minute speech but I'll make the most of that I hope.
Immediately above is the link to a video of the complete convention. My speech begins approximately one hour and twenty-two minutes into the video. My opponent, Al Whitesides, speaks immediately after me. Notice how he sees that the Pratt and Whitney plant is a significant issue, and one that must be defended.
Here's a written summary of the event through my eyes:
The most dramatic moment at this year’s Buncombe County Democratic Convention began when almost all of the 122 people there had their hands raised for about a minute to show they believed that the $25 million yearly hotel taxes given to the Tourist Development Association could be put to better use. Then they all slammed their hands down when asked by Nina Tovish, City Council Candidate, if they felt Asheville needed more hotels.
I looked for Mayor Ester Manheimer when that hand-down-slamming happened, but she was mercifully in the lobby. Earlier I’d personally thanked her for having the courage to slam down the Vance Monument. I assumed she got many death threats from that, being Jewish and demolishing Asheville’s main white-protestant supremacy symbol.
“I want you to write my next speech,” I said to Nina in the lobby of the Ferguson Building on the AB Tech campus, where the convention was held. She replied that it was an extension of her main campaign theme to promote as much input from the public as possible, something she’d thought of late in night before the event. You never know when inspiration will strike!
Am I confident in claiming that part of my speech qualified as one of the more dramatic moments, the proof being the many painful groans it elicited? Yes. The groans occurred after explaining that “World War III County” was a possible new Buncombe County nickname. This was because much evidence supports my view that Jack Cecil (Cousin of the Biltmore Estate owner) and the County Commission apparently plan to recruit many other weapons’ factories in addition to the Pratt and Whitney one already being built.
The groan-inducing paragraph showed how the new factory, subsidized by almost a $100 million of your tax dollars, is bad enough:
World War III County refers to the fact that the F-35 Lighting can carry a nuclear bomb that is 22 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. America’s fleet of 2,500 Lightnings could kill almost everyone and everything on Earth. Is that the economy you want?
And then came the obvious hooker:
If elected, I will subsidize peaceful jobs, not war work. Green industry not killing factories. Our highest hopes, not our deepest fears.
However, the groans didn’t carry over to my opponent, the distinguished Al Whiteside, who was accompanied by claps and some shouts of affection as he mounted the podium. He’s been on the County Commission since 2016, and noted the many accomplishments of his tenure, including the newest plan to invest $62 million to build 3,000 units of affordable housing.
Near the end of his allotted 2 minutes, Al said something like “I know there’s some problems with the Pratt and Whitney plant, but they do many good things too, like providing hundreds of good paying jobs.” He had a tough act to follow since I’d left the image of an irradiated and mass-murdered planet Earth in 122 brains. I usually try to have several jokes or at least light-hearted moments in speeches, but given the 2 -minute deadline, I felt that there was no time for levity. However, sort of like an after-dinner mint, my last words of “I have just one more thing to say: Go Tar Heel basketball” got some claps and a few laughs.
By going in and out of the main auditorium, and thanks to the funny, friendly and efficient emceeing of Jeff Rose, chair of the BCDP, the meeting was a pretty much painless 5 hours of a mutual love fest, earnest and tolerate exchange of interesting ideas, and genteel jockeying for advantage in contested races. Then there was the jovial good spirits of Third Vice Chair Barrett Phillips who introduced candidates, the glowing effervescence of First Vice Chair Kathie Kline, the gracious elegance of Second Vice Chair Beverly Miller, and the high-tech savvy of Lindsey, wife of treasurer Rich Lee who projected speeches by absent senatorial, court and other candidates on a jumbotron in front of the auditorium.
They included sheriff candidate David Hurley who was able to polish he’s address so thoroughly that I wondered if that was the way to go rather than being there in person.
I found my throat quickly strained by talking loudly through masks as well as above the chatter of an enthusiastic, crowded room. So I discussed with my treasurer and main political advisor, the ever-insightful and resourceful Larry Abbot, and decided to go into the main auditorium early. It was venue that was numinous for me since it was where my good friend Wally Bowen had one of his last public appearances, limping around on his Lou Gehrig disease legs, his ALS arms hanging uselessly, yet still up beat and vigorous, as Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman spoke to help raise money for MAIN, Wally’s internet and radio projects.
My brilliant and renown assistant treasurer Anne Craig kept the fear goblins away as we carpooled at 8:30 on the cold Saturday morning. The chill was magnified by the blustery hilltop expanses of the huge AB Tech parking lots with surreally clear views of Pisgah and its accompanying muscular mountains. Campaign staffers Lorrie Streifel and Dianne Finn provided the warmth and enthusiasm that I often lack in the requisite schmoozing that politicking requires. Reject Raytheon’s Chair Ken Jones even showed up to pass out leaflets in my 4 feet of allowed display space, 4 feet that we increased with a 4-foot x 3-foot poster of the Raytheon contracted F-35, with all its menacing armaments bristling in front of it. (See Branyonforcommissioner.org for the picture). Thanks so much to them all lending their credibility and help to my candidacy.
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Sam Irvin Jr., who was the son of Senator Sam Irving Sr. of Watergate fame, gave a no nonsense, amazingly relaxed no-notes speech about how threatened our democracy was and how proud he was of it, of us, fighting for our democracy’s life. He then repeated a quote I’d heard Nancy Pelosi say many times, as described by the website Professor Buzzkill:
A crowd had gathered on the steps of Independence Hall, eager to hear the news about the new Constitution. A sturdy old woman wearing a shawl, approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him, “well, Doctor, what do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied sagely, “A republic, if you can keep it.
Another aspect that was shocking to me was how many candidates couldn’t make the event because they had “pressing” engagements elsewhere. More pressing than talking to the biggest and most influential gathering of Buncombe County Democrats of the year?
Another groaning moment was when Joe Bowman, who is on the ballot, but not actually running for Asheville District Attorney, told the audience that he felt that public defender Courtney Booth was the best qualified, best motivated and most compassionate DA candidate of the two others running, Todd Williams and Doug Edwards. Some of the 122 thought it perhaps not cricket that Joe was using the opportunity to speak to endorse Courtney, rather than the official purpose of promoting one’s own candidacy.
I thought Jay Carey, trying to replace infamous Madison Cawthorn, had the most clever moment when he said he was a “law and order” candidate. Then he turned that image on its head saying that the best way to obtain L and O was to eliminate poverty, unionize, ensure a living wage, provide Medicare for all, etc. … the whole liberal compassionate agenda. Ahhh. Whereas congressional candidate Katie Dean was powerful in describing her definition of true patriotism and candidates Jasmine Beach-Ferrara and Bo Hess were convincingly sincere, crisp and elegant.
Out in the lobby there was much affable hobnobbing which for me included speaking to Julie Mayfield who told of an encounter with Mark Robinson, North Carolina’s black, yet Trump supporting Lieutenant Governor, and his homophobic attempt to force her to stop fighting for LBGQT rights. The effort made the nightly news and Julie got scores of texts after.
Another dramatic moment was during the resolutions segment, in which delegates propose platform planks in hopes that it will become part of the local, state or national Democratic platform and eventually law. Though about 18 of the 21 proposed were passed almost unanimously with no discussion, one calling for support for Ukrainians for the “unprovoked” attack by Russia was quickly and hotly debated. It included a sincere thanks by a young Ukrainian woman delegate for American aid.
The resolution’s final form was “Be it resolved that the Democratic Party of Buncombe County condemns any and all efforts to justify and excuse the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine currently being undertaken by some groups who are willingly or unwillingly using Russian propaganda in the process.” The original resolution stated something like any effort by “leftist elements of the Democratic party” to justify.
This caused me to cringe. I think of myself as a Progressive, slightly leftist Democrat, one of the 53% of Buncombe Democrats who voted for Bernie or Warren in the 2020 primary. And of course we are in deep and mournful sympathy with Zelensky and the brave and butchered Ukrainians and condemnation of the monster Putin. But you have to at least cite that NATO expansion to the Russian border, and examples provided by brutal and failed US invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as also possible factors of Putin’s invasion, don’t you? But I said nothing, and Anne’s brave husband Tom Craig was the only member to oppose aspects of the resolution.
Perhaps I was beginning to think like a politician trying to preserve the good will I’d generated with my speech. Tom’s amendment was roundly defeated. Luckily, my 3.1 precinct chair, Soren Pederson proposed another unanimously approved amendment to try to get the US to stop shipping arms to Saudi Arabia who was committing a bombing genocide of the Houthi’s in Yemen. Thus, the complexity and complicities of the US foreign policy were duly noted.
Perhaps my biggest possible gaff was not talking more to the Mighty Quinn, Jake Quinn, who, from my analysis, along with long-time serving, resourceful and dedicated Democrat Tom Sullivan, is one of the most influential, benevolent and entertainingly eloquent powers of the BCDP. Specifically, as Jake talked with my opponent Al Whitesides. Instead, I sat behind my F-35 poster, socially warn out after 5 hours of meeting greeting, and also feeling ambivalent about joining a conversation of my opponent. Though Al and I already had had a nice conversation on Wednesday at the WNC Central Labor Council forum.
Regardless, as I climbed into my car after the long day of experiencing our liberal democracy in action, I was elated, having apparently become an accepted and somewhat celebrated member of a huge group, Buncombe County’s most influential Democrats. So, I bought a minor feast of comfort food to celebrate. Ahhh.
7. April 4th, Black Mountain Democrats, speech and meet and greet at BM Library, 6-7:30. Arranged by Kitty Kelly.
The apotheosis of Katie Dean was, in my humble opinion, the most interesting aspect of the Black Mountain Candidate Forum, Monday, April 4th at the city’s library. Ms. Dean, candidate for the Democratic Congressional Primary, exhibited an amazing transcendence of her speech at the Buncombe County Democratic Party. Instead of a somewhat halting 2 minutes of that event, here she grabbed the microphone and spoke the allowed 3 minutes with strong, eloquent, unfaltering conviction.
Proof to me that she held the about 80 people (5 precincts) in the heart of her steely will was what happened after her standard comment about having to endure shoulder surgery without anesthetic to save money because of no health insurance: “I think its proof that I’m tough enough to take on Madison Cawthorn,” she intoned. The audience burst into satisfied, supportive, somewhat stress-relieving laughter, the biggest laugh of the night. I don’t think Ms. Dean meant it to be funny, but I do think the audience’s guffaws were proof that they were really liking her.
Congressional Candidates Jay Carey continued his effective speeches with a call and response segment of “Yes we can” that the audience seemed to enjoy greatly and Bo Hess continued his folksy, from-the-heart ad-libbing about his obviously genuine concern, resulting from years of being a therapist for the plight of poor folk. Jasmine Beach Ferrara sent a confident proxie to speak in her behalf. But Katie Dean stole the show in my estimation.
Perhaps the most oomph from a single remark came from Quentin Miller. He said something like: “I’m not a candidate for Sherriff of Buncombe County. I am the Sherriff.” The crowd went wild. Then he explained: I’m a candidate for reelection to the Sherriff’s office.”
I got a pretty good laugh myself with opening remarks about loving Black Mountain and Montreat. “I was raised an Alabama Presbyterian and was taught that to get to heaven you have to go through Montreat.” Laughs. Ahh. “I think that may be true.”
Then I proceeded with the sad details of how I believed that Jack Cecil, my distinguished opponent, Al Whitesides, and County Commission were changing the character of Buncombe County’s economy from such happy nicknames such as Paris of the South to gruesome epithets such as World War III County. A county making parts for the F-35 Lightning, whose American fleet of 2,500, could each carry a nuclear weapons 22 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, and could thus theoretically kill almost everyone and everything on Earth. World War III that is.
I got another laugh and cheer when, upon leaving the podium, I stopped and said: “Wait, I have one more thing to say: “Go Tarheel basketball!” Unfortunately, as you know the Tar Heels lost by just three points, but not before playing a magnificent and dramatic game, and having an amazing and unexpected run to the NCAA finals. I’m plenty proud and happy enough for that.
Unlike the Tar Heels, I think I’m possibly surging toward victory in part because my constant reminder about the horrible consequences of our new weapons factory is obviously touching a nerve with Al. He stated that I, though he didn’t address me directly, was using scare tactics by warning of nuclear annihilation, and that Pratt and Whitney made a lot of good jobs, which is what we should be concerned about. He then used a scare tactic: “If it wasn’t for defense industries such as Pratt and Whitney,” he said, “we’d all be speaking Russian now.”
He also gave one of the frequent excuses for justifying the P & W plant, that only 20% of it is being used to make F-35 parts. This is particularly perplexing to me since Al stated to me and Reject Raytheon, when he and Brownie Newman were kind enough to give us an interview:
"I’ve been against every war since World War II, from Korea forward, including the Vietnam war that I was in … We have fought wars that didn’t even benefit this country. What did we get out of it but a lot of lost lives and in some cases the reputation of the country?"
So how can he be for making weapons for the next probably unbeneficial, life-losing and reputation-destroying US war even if only 20% of the plant does it? To me the 20% argument is easily countered with: “If the Mafia had great restaurants and night clubs in Buncombe County, but 20% of their operations were murder, extortion and racketeering, would we still allow it? But, if Al is right, allowing weapons manufacturers is worse than allowing the mafia because the US military kills millions (in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam to name a few), not just a few here and there like the mafia, and holds the world in fear as to where our next invasion will be.
I do believe most Americans think we have good intentions when we violently eviscerate yet another country trying to teach them democracy, but don’t good intentions start to sound hollow when the result is so constantly so horrible? For instance, we killed a million people in Iraq according to the British medical magazine Lancet, though most of them were what we called collateral damage. Accidents. Whoops, sorry about bombing that wedding and killing everyone. Whereas Putin is killing civilians intentionally. Do the families of the dead people care whether it’s intentional or collateral? Is their hatred of us less?
Another challenge I get is that by trying to reduce the size of the US military industrial complex I’m not being realistic, that they’ll be wars in the future and the US has to be ready. But I think I’m being more deeply realistic in understanding that any war in the nuclear age could lead to nuclear annihilation, and so war, and most of the preparations for war, is the real enemy.
I did have to concede to Al personally afterwards that he won the contest of who has the best stump speech delivery. He’s amazing in that he can saunter up the microphone, make a few jokes, meander to here or there with interesting points, all while not having a written speech to fall back on in case his mind goes blank. He is totally confident. I on the other hand, read a good portion of my speech while looking at the audience at high drama points.
A tough decision for me was whether to keep the 4’ by 3’ poster of the F-35, bristling with all its armaments laid menacingly out in front, facing the audience from right next to the podium. I’d turned it around when I gave my speech and forgotten to turn it back to its blank side when going back to my seat. It was there, right beside Al, as he spoke.
I conferred with DA candidate Courtney Booth, whom I was sitting beside, about this quandary. She said turn it around. So, I did so.
Anyway, the atmosphere of the Black Mountain forum was very cordial affair with about ten hosts making everyone feel at home. The MC, who’s name I’ve regretfully forgotten, was easy going and thorough, and said that the 3-minute speech limit didn’t “mean that I’ll use a hook to rip you off stage if you go over.” So most candidates were pretty relaxed when she stood up to show their time was up.
They checked our vaccination records at the door and required masks the entire time, except while speaking. One of the hosts even said to me that we could leave yard signs and they’d put them by the polling places on the day of the election. Now that’s promoting Democratic candidates.
And though my contention that that nuclear annihilation can happen is pretty grim, DA candidate Doug Edwards painted an even grimmer picture, going into the gritty, bloody details of about ten horrible Asheville murders, rapes and kidnappings. He came across as someone who will be very tough on criminals. Whereas Courtney was just as powerful saying she’d protect the poor and minorities from excessive policing and racist law enforcement. She pointed to pictures of the racist Vance Monument still in the courthouse as evidence of this. While Todd Williams had a lighter touch, trying to straddle a law-and-order message with an inclusive contention.