(Photo: File photo)
ASHEVILLE – City Councilman Keith Young has filed to run for U.S. House in a district centered on Charlotte, two hours away from his official residence.
Young will face incumbent Democrat Alma Adams and two political unknowns in the May 8 primary for the 12th Congressional District, a strongly Democratic district which takes in most of Mecklenburg County.
He said in a statement that, “When bullies occupy the White House we need stronger voices of opposition!”
His filing Wednesday, the last day of the filing period, left some political observers scratching their heads.
Young is likely to be an underdog in the race, and his candidacy will revive questions about his dedication to serving on City Council that arose when Young bought a home outside the city limits in Arden in 2016.
A statement of candidacy Young filed with the State Board of Elections Wednesday lists his residential address as on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in central Asheville and his mailing address as on Remount Road in Charlotte, about 2 miles southwest of the center of the city.
Young is registered to vote in Asheville, according to the state’s voter registration database.
There is no legal requirement that a candidate for or member of the U.S. House live in the district he or she represents, but voters are often leery of supporting a candidate who does not live in the district in question.
Asked what the odds of Young winning are, Democratic political consultant and blogger Thomas Mills responded, “The term ‘snowball’s chance in hell,’ comes to mind.”
Adams has name recognition and has not been involved in any notable scandals or done anything else that would cause voters to turn against her after electing her to Congress twice, said Mills, who is based in Carrboro.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (Photo: Courtesy U.S. House)
“There were a bunch of people who thought they could beat her (in 2016) and nobody even got close,” he said.
Adams, however, has faced questions about her residence too.
Adams was first elected in 2014, replacing U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, who resigned to take a position in the administration of President Barack Obama.
She won a seven-way Democratic primary in May of that year with 44 percent of the vote in a district that at the time included her former home base of Greensboro. She went on to easily win the general election in the mostly Democratic district.
But the state General Assembly redrew the district in 2016 to confine it entirely to Mecklenburg County. Adams announced that she was moving to Charlotte.
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Charlotte television station WBTV reported that it could not locate Adams at the Charlotte address she listed as her home over a Memorial Day weekend in 2016. It said its investigation found that Adams had spent nights at her previous address in Greensboro.
The report aired May 31 of that year. Adams went on to beat six challengers in the Democratic primary in June with 42.5 percent of the vote, then got 67 percent in winning the November general election.
Adams, 71, served nine years on Greensboro City Council and 20 years in the North Carolina House.
Young, 38, was elected to City Council in 2015. His term ends next year. He ran unsuccessfully for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2012 and 2014, then sought a seat on the board that opened up in late 2016 when Commissioner Brownie Newman was elected board chairman. Democratic officials in commissioners’ District 1 chose Al Whitesides to fill the vacancy instead.
A document Young signed in connection with borrowing money to buy the house in Arden states that he will use it as his primary residence. A city resident challenged whether Young in fact lives in Asheville after the Citizen Times reported on the document, but the Buncombe County Board of Elections turned the challenge down on a 3-0 vote in March 2017.
Young said in a hearing that he slept at the Arden home about three times a week but considers his parents’ home in Asheville to be his permanent home.
He released an announcement of his candidacy Wednesday night that does not mention Adams by name, but suggests he would take a more confrontational approach to the job.
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Young says in the announcement that the 12th District, one of only three U.S. House districts in North Carolina that elected Democrats in 2016, “is not a seat that can yield timid leadership in Washington.”
“As I serve in the largest city west of Charlotte, I frequently wonder if my congresspeople across the state realize we depend on their voices to represent the rest of us who have lost representation, due to to the ills of Republican leadership in Washington, and in our own backyards,” his statement says.
“As public servants, we should have an obligation to despise serving in mediocrity. We must strive to serve in a manner where our constituents not only know what we stand for, but who we stand for,” it says.
The announcement touts Young’s work in “advancing equity, diversity, police reform, affordable housing, infrastructure improvements and standing up for basic human dignity.”
He did not respond Thursday to questions about why he is running in the 12th or how that would affect his service on City Council. The primary is May 8.
A video on Young’s campaign website shows a red baseball cap reading “Make America Great Again,” a symbol of President Donald Trump’s campaign, burning while the mournful military tune “Taps” plays.
The words “Send A Fighter Send Resistance! Send Keith Young to Congress!” appear on the screen.
No one responded to a request for comment from the Adams campaign.
Adams’ campaign raised $209,260 last year, spent $122,957 and end the year with $193,158 in the bank, reports filed with the federal government say.
Mills, the political consultant, said Adams’ wins in 2016 showed voters were not concerned by any doubts about where she lives.
“It wasn’t like she was foreign from there,” he said. “She had represented Charlotte and now she lives down there.”
Young is little known in Charlotte and his residence will hurt him, Mills predicted.
“I don’t know why anybody would vote for somebody who lives in Asheville if she lives in Charlotte,” he said.