Rep. Patsy Keever huddled with a group of supporters in downtown Asheville on Jan. 19 to formally announce her candidacy for congress in the 10th District, which stretches from the mountains to Gaston County.
Currently serving in the Statehouse, Keever made the decision to run for congress after GOP leaders in the General Assembly drew her out of the Buncombe district she currently represents, forcing her to resign or face Democratic colleague Rep. Susan Fisher in a primary. She chose not to challenge Fisher, saying she thinks her colleague is doing a great job.
Now she faces Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and a host of other Democratic challengers vying to be the their party's congressional nominee against Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry in November. And Keever tells Xpress that she thinks her experience sets her apart.
"I think I've had much more experience than Terry has. I think I can relate to a wider variety of people. I served at the county level, and I've served at the state level. I taught school for 25 years," she explains. "I think when you do all those things … when you're working face to face with the public, for that long, in that many different ways – I think you understand better, what the needs are."
She adds that she's learned a lot from all of her past campaigns, which included an unsuccessful bid for congress in 2004 against Charles Taylor in the 11th District, which no longer includes much of Asheville due to redistricting. Before that, she won three consecutive terms on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. She won her first term to the Statehouse in 2010. Bellamy, she notes, has not run for office outside the city of Asheville.
"In terms of running for office, it's a very time-consuming, energy–sucking thing to do," she says. "And I just feel like I've done it before and I know exactly what needs to be done in terms of raising money, getting out in to the district — in terms of really giving yourself and being part of a team."
And although McHenry has soundly defeated Democratic challengers in all of his past campaigns, Keever says she thinks she can appeal to voters in the district, despite its historically conservative leanings.
"About 20 percent of voters [in the 10th District] are independents," she notes. "I think our job is to pull those independents over to us and to help them understand that we will be there for them with constituency service — listening and understanding what the issues are — giving them respect."
Keever also has some sharp words for McHenry, citing some high profile incidents that she says show he has a lack of such respect.
"For example, Patrick McHenry was very rude, calling Elizabeth Warren a liar on TV. He had a run in with the military police over in Iraq. That's not the type of person I want to represent me," she asserts. "I want someone who respects me, and who will listen to me — not somebody who's going to think they're better than I am, or better than anybody. We're all in this together."