Kicking off what's likely to be one of the most contentious local campaigns this year, former Democratic Rep. Jane Whilden announced Feb. 13 that she will challenge incumbent Republican Tim Moffitt to try to take back the N.C. House seat she lost to him in 2010.
It will be the third time the two have faced off: Whilden narrowly beat Moffitt in 2008, serving one term in the Statehouse before losing to him in 2010. This year "will be be the tiebreaker," she says.
Redrawn last year, the new House District 116 stretches from Arden in the south to Sandy Mush in the northwest, comprising the most conservative part of the county — seemingly giving Moffitt an edge.
The Skyland small business owner was ranked as one of the most conservative members of the House last year by Civatas Action, a conservative political advocacy group. And many of his Republican colleagues see him as a rising star in the party, which took control of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in more than a century.
However, Moffitt has rankled many Democrats and Asheville residents in his freshman term by taking the lead on a series of controversial measures with big local impacts.
Last year he lead a successful effort in the Statehouse to change the way candidates are elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, instituting a district system that critics said was a brazenly partisan move to increase the chance of Republican representation. Moffitt countered that district elections would be more fair, helping bring county government better in tune with the needs of residents in rural and underserved areas.
Moffitt has also ruffled lots of feathers with an ongoing effort to explore the idea of handing control of the Asheville water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District or another outside entity. He also favors transferring control of the Asheville Regional Airport to an independent authority.
In comments to Xpress, Whilden had a harsh assessment of Moffitt's efforts, saying: "It's been hard to watch him do all this crazy crap."
Now retired, Whilden and her family have a long history of public service: She served as the director of the Governors Western Office for nearly a decade. Her grandfather served in the North Carolina House, and her father served in the state Senate.
Meanwhile, both the Buncombe County Democratic and Republican parties have indicated that winning the House seat in District 116 will be a top priority this year.
Moffitt has not yet made an official announcement on his re-election campaign, but has indicated he plans to run.
Here's the full announcement from Whilden:
Jane Whilden Announces bid for NC House District 116
Former Representative Jane Whilden announced today that she will challenge Tim Moffitt for the seat she held in the NC House of Representatives from 2008-2010.
“I’m running because we can’t afford 2 more years of disastrous policies in Raleigh,” Whilden said. “During the last election, Tim Moffitt promised voters he would go to Raleigh to create jobs and improve our economy. He’s done neither. He’s pushed through a budget that laid-off teachers and teacher assistants, cut funding to A-B Tech, and forced UNC Asheville to raise its tuition. These cuts have crippled our ability to train workers and attract new jobs to our district.”
“By proposing to limit our local leaders’ ability to decide on local issues, Tim Moffitt has damaged the public’s trust and not created one single job in the process.”
“We deserve better.”
“Public education is an investment not an expense. It is essential to create jobs and grow our economy. Businesses are in search of highly trained and educated workers. That means we must continue to make public education a priority in our state, from pre-K through high schools to community colleges and our universities. Our commitment to public education should be our number one priority.”
“We are blessed to call Buncombe County home. We must work together to protect our public schools, create jobs and make sure that our voice is not silenced by those in Raleigh. I ask for your vote and support.”
In addition to her service in the NC House, Whilden currently serves as a member of the NC Judicial Nominating Commission and is on Appalachian State University’s Parents Council. Also, she has served as board chair of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of WNC, on the PTA at Estes Elementary, and as a member of the Board of Visitors at UNC- Chapel Hill. She and her husband of 31 years, David, have 3 children and are members of Central United Methodist Church.
Jane Whilden will file her candidacy to represent District 116 in North Carolina House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 14th at the Buncombe County Board of Elections. Jane will be joined by her husband David, as she officially begins her campaign for the NC House of Representatives.
From more information on Jane Whilden see www.JaneForStateHouse.com