North Carolina 11th District
Western North Carolina, the protrusion of the Tar Heel State deep into the eastern United States’ highest and oldest mountains, is a land of long and ornery traditions. First settled not long after the Revolutionary War, it still has Indian communities and hollows where people are descended from the first white settlers. Its biggest city, Asheville, memorialized in Thomas Wolfe’s novels, was a retreat for lung patients. Asheville was also the home of the brilliant eccentric George Vanderbilt, who built the 255-room Biltmore mansion amid a vast forest where he pioneered scientific forestry. A dozen miles east is Black Mountain College, frequented by such innovators as Buckminster Fuller and minimalist composer John Cage. Asheville’s historic structures, from Gothic Revival to Art Deco, remain well preserved and are a magnet for gay couples and tourists, who in turn support a handful of coffeehouses, microbreweries, and artsy cinemas. The city’s minor league baseball team is called the Tourists. Not far to the west is the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s casino, which has given the tribe a yearly budget of $130 million and considerable political influence. Over a ridge is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most heavily visited. Its forested, fog-wisped mountains are 20 degrees cooler in the summer than the lowland towns an hour or so away. The Fraser fir trees grown on farms in the mountains are America’s favorite Christmas tree.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 11th District of North Carolina includes the western end of the state, including Asheville’s Buncombe County, which accounts for one-third of the votes. The orneriness of the mountain country has been manifest in its politics. This part of the state was reluctant to secede in the Civil War. There were few slaves and many small farmers loyal to the Union, and those who took up the Confederate cause did so out of loyalty to Gov. Zebulon Vance, an Asheville native and reluctant secessionist. In modern times, the 11th has been one of the nation’s most closely contested districts, throwing out incumbents in five of six elections between 1980 and 1990. Coinciding with an influx of retirees in the mountains south of Asheville, it has tilted Republican in the past few presidential elections, including 2008, when John McCain won it by 52%-46.5%. However, Barack Obama won Buncombe County, where liberal-leaning Asheville is located, 56%-42%.