Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Brian Caskey currently served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Party in Henderson county. This was incorrect, he has not held a position on the Committee since his election to the Mills River City Council.
Republican Chuck Edwards is the incumbent in Henderson, Buncombe and Transylvania County’s NC Senate District 48, where he was comfortably re-elected in 2018. FlipNC does not even rank this seat as competitive. Something must be convincing local Democrats that the district actually is competitive, as three candidates entered into the race. Najah Underwood, Cristal Figueroa, and Brian Caskey have all jumped into the primary.
Najah Underwood describes herself as a Millenial and has a Bachelor’s in Science in Communication from Lees-McRae College where she participated on the Track and Field team. She then received her Masters in Public Administration and Public Policy and has most recently worked as an associate at Aldi’s. Underwood has included on her platform some issues that have traditionally received bipartisan appeal, such as increased access to vocational training—an issue that Republican Lt. Governor candidate Deborah Cochran brought up at last month’s candidate forum in Harnett County.
Underwood has also brought up more traditionally Democratic issues and on December 10th tweeted her opposition to a program in Henderson County that allows the sheriff’s department to coordinate their efforts with ICE and later retweeted an image of protestors at the sheriff’s department.
Cristal Figueroa works as an interpreter at a law firm and is also a political newcomer. Early in her campaign made a miscalculation when she tweeted an image of herself speaking at an event for congressional candidate Michael O’Shea with one of his signs behind her, and then shortly thereafter had to release a statement denouncing “rumors” that she had endorsed a congressional candidate. She has run against Voter ID laws, stating that they “target low income, minority voters who have a right to have their voices heard.” She has also repeatedly spoken against Duke Energy’s plan to place a landfill near Lake Julian.
Brian Caskey is the political veteran in the Democratic field. The Mayor pro tem for Mills River, he also served as a co-chair of his precinct for the Democratic Party in Henderson County prior to his election to Mills River City Council. He possesses a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Stetson University and a Masters in Liberal Studies from UNC Wilmington. Caskey has taken a different stance from Figueroa on the issue of Duke Energy’s coal ash landfill, saying it should stay at the current site at Lake Julian.
He has also run on expanding Medicaid, drawing districts in a way that he says will not favor one race or party, and reinstating the Earned Income Tax Credit as a way of addressing rural poverty.
Chuck Edwards does not have a primary challenge and is automatically the Republican nominee for the general election in November.