NC Senate District 49 -- Buncombe County
Incumbent Democrat Terry Van Duyn is stepping down to run in the March primary for lieutenant governor. The most recent redistricting reduced Republican voting strength in District 49 even more than it was already, so it's rated "Likely Democratic." The primary between three Democratic contenders will likely decide who ultimately takes the seat, though there is a Republican in the race (see below).
Democrat Julie Mayfield might justifiably take the honors of "frontrunner." She declared her candidacy almost a year ago -- last March. She's a 53-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1967 and since 2015 a member of the Asheville City Council and one of the foremost leaders of MountainTrue, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. She helped co-found MountainTrue in 2015, the same year she made it to the city council. MountainTrue was a merger of environmental advocacy groups in Henderson, Jackson, and Macon counties and has become the official home for both the French Broad Riverkeeper and the Watauga Riverkeeper.
Julie Mayfield got her law degree from Emory University in 1996, which apparently fueled an inherent gene for pro bono and public good advocacy. She directed the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University School of Law where she represented environmental groups, civic associations, and individuals in public interest environmental law cases. From 2003 to early 2008, she was Vice President and General Counsel for the Georgia Conservancy. She arrived in Asheville in 2008 and by 2011 she was appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to the Mountain Resources Commission, where she served until the legislature dissolved the Commission in 2013. She also served on the North Carolina Conservation Network board for six years, chairing it for two.
On the Asheville City Council, she's pushed a new program for down-payment assistance for prospective homeowners and she's shown a commendible curiosity about how the Tourism Development Authority spends tourism tax revenues. Prior to MountainTrue, Mayfield worked for Amnesty International USA and for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and for the Georgia Justice Project. She advocated for people caught up sometimes in a meat-grinder of law enforcement, which accounts for Mayfield's active participation in rewriting the use-of-force rules for the Asheville City Police, a policy-rewrite that Mayfield says has led to a 61% reduction in use-of-force incidents.
She's been endorsed, incidentally, by Terry Van Duyn.
Democrat Travis Smith is a 36-year-old millennial who was born in Canada, immigrated here 11 years ago, and presumably became a citizen, but I can find no evidence that he's ever voted in any election including in the 2016 presidential year when he said he phonebanked for Bernie Sanders. He works as an IT consultant for Salesforce.com.
Here's his introductory video message:
Democrat Ben Scales is a 55-year-old baby boomer born in 1964. He also announced his candidacy in March of 2019. Like Mayfield, Scales is also a lawyer and has run unsuccessfully twice for Buncombe district attorney, once as an unaffiliated candidate. Scales came out early for the legalization of marijuana and staked out other progressive positions: "Health care is a right, climate change needs rapid solutions now, education is for everyone, gender is a spectrum, immigrants are welcome, domestic violence won’t be tolerated, women are equal, agriculture and innovation is vital, elections should be fair and voter registration automatic, the cash bail system, mass incarceration and the war on drugs must end."
He says that "As an attorney, he has represented the underrepresented, often pro bono, such as protestors and activists associated with Occupy Asheville, Asheville Black Lives Matter, Southerners On New Ground, and Veterans for Peace." He's been particularly active as an attorney for victims of domestic violence. He's a do-gooder in the venerable Democratic tradition and apparently a pretty decent guitarist.
Republican Bob Penland is a 77-year-old resident of Candler, NC, who was born in 1942 at the tail-end of the Silent Generation. He has no campaign infrastructure whatsoever that we can find, and hence no accessible biography.