Several considering run for Dobson’s state rep seat
SPRUCE PINE – Since North Carolina District 85 Rep. Josh Dobson, R-Nebo, announced his decision to run for North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, rumors about who will seek his seat in the statehouse have been swirling, although no one has officially declared.
District 85 includes Mitchell, Avery and McDowell counties. Names being mentioned in Mitchell County include Republican County Commissioner Vern Grindstaff and Dobson’s opponent in the 2018 election for state representative, Democrat Howard Larsen. Spruce Pine Town Council member Larry McKinney briefly considered running for the seat as well but is no longer considering it.
“It’s no secret to most who know me well, I have for some time had an interest and desire to serve my fellow citizens in the North Carolina House of Representatives,” Grindstaff said. “Public service is simply in my heart and soul. For me, this decision can’t be made in a week or two weeks. I am diligently considering all that goes into this – my wife, my family, my time away from home and loved ones, my church and my career.”
Grindstaff said he plans to announce his decision by mid-June.
Larsen said he had “thought about” running for the seat, but said he would have to consult with his family before making a decision.
Spruce Pine Democrat David Wheeler, who ran against Sen. Ralph Hise in 2018, was also mentioned as a possible candidate but as of now he is not considering running.
“While Rep. Dobson is a very good person, someone with a view toward fixing our problems needs to replace him,” Wheeler said. “I hope the Democrats can find a good candidate to fill this seat. The timing for me is not right. I have three small kids and a new business that require my 100 percent attention. Whomever the Democrats nominate, I’ll fully support. We need new ideas representing us in Raleigh.”
People considering filing for the race in Avery County include conservative blogger and talk radio host Robbie Pope, of Banner Elk, and Avery County Commissioner Blake Vance, of Crossnore.
Pope said he has spoken with Vance and met with Dobson in Raleigh. He said he would decide by this coming August.
“I am running in 2020, I just don’t know which office I will seek,” he said. “There should be two open seats on the Avery County Board of Commissioners I could run for one of those. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but right now, I am 50-50.”
The recent shooting at UNC Charlotte, his alma mater, is what caused Pope to consider running for state representative.
“Gun control doesn’t work, but mental health counseling does,” Pope said. “Being a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives would offer the chance to be a part of important legislation about mental house counseling.”
Pope added he’s confident he can raise the estimated $30,000 needed to run for state representative and regardless of which office he seeks, plans to run an issues campaign.
“If you like my ideas, then vote for me,” he said. “I’ve got no problem with someone else’s ideas being liked more than mine.”
Vance said he also plans to decide by mid-June and admitted he and Grindstaff have an agreement to not run against each other.
“We talk about it every day,” Vance said. “Regardless of our decision, we are unified in sharing a common vision of a representative who continues the fantastic work done by Rep. Dobson and stands on conservative principles with a servant’s heart for Avery, McDowell and Mitchell counties.”
Names that have emerged from McDowell County are former McDowell County Sheriff Dudley Greene and McDowell County Commissioner Tony Brown.
“I’m a very definite maybe,” Greene said. “I’ve been retired for a year now, and I’ve enjoyed not having a schedule. I’ll get to a point where I’ve convinced myself to run and then there are days when I go play golf. I don’t want to do something too quickly. I know I need to make a decision pretty soon, but I’m not nailed down to any timeline. I wish I knew something a little more definite, but I am leaning more toward running than not.”
Greene is an Avery County native who served as McDowell County Sheriff for 10 years.
Brown did not respond to a request for comment.
Deadline to officially file to run is Dec. 21.