Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984

By William D. Snider | Go to book overview

Prologue

Some thought the ferocious race for senator from North Carolina between Senator Jesse A. Helms and Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., was the second most important election in the nation. They saw it as a sort of showdown for the soul between the conservative Old South and the progressive forces of the New. Others viewed it as yet another stage in the erosion of the old one-party Democratic South. Still others saw it as simply a southern-fried back-alley brawl, featuring the latest electronic advertising techniques underwritten by the most costly funding in senatorial election history.

As the long and rowdy campaign unfolded in the shadow of the Reagan avalanche of 1984, it was a bit of all these. It was also a flamboyant, often nasty race between two skillful politicians sprung from much the same rural soil but espousing different political and social views.

Many of the senator's admirers considered him a courtly, grandfatherly figure, the "nicest man you ever saw." Others viewed him as an unbending right-wing warrior battling the "tax and spend" liberals or even as an avenging angel come to rescue sinners from their wicked ways. Still others identified him with Ronald Reagan "Morning in America" crusade for free enterprise, patriotism, and the "Opportunity Society." Not all Helms's supporters liked everything he favored--for example, stern anti-abortion laws or organized prayer in public schools--but they admired his gutsiness, even in pursuit of lost causes. He knew how to "send 'em a message" and they always knew where Jesse stood.

Then there were those who supported Helms because they liked Hunt less. They saw the governor as an overly political, wishy-washy opportunist mostly identified with tax increases and Yankee liberals on the Democratic ticket. They feared his links with "the other Jesse" (the Reverend Jesse Jackson) who made "we want it all" demands at home and anti-administration tirades abroad. They disliked Hunt' s tight-knit political organization, which had become entrenched and a bit careless after eight years in power.

The governor's admirers, a substantial majority of the populace as the race began, remembered his dedication to educational and economic uplift over a whole decade of Tar Heel history. They liked his crisp, pragmatic gubernatorial leadership, his conservatism on economic issues, his moderation on social issues, and his conviction that government is a partner not an

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Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Prologue 3
  • Mr. Clean and the Fire Chief's Son 5
  • I. Patriarch and Upstart 7
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 10
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 18
  • 2. Salt of the Earth People 25
  • 5. Too Proud to Be Proud 31
  • Naysayer and Pragmatist 37
  • 6. the Lone Ranger 39
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 43
  • 7. a Touch of Camelot and Carter 49
  • 10. a New Direction 58
  • Master Campaigner and Avenging Angel 63
  • Ii. Political Tarnish 65
  • 12. Catching Hand Grenades 70
  • 13. Against the Wind 78
  • 114. Helms at Bay 82
  • 114. Helms at Bay 91
  • 114. Helms at Bay 95
  • 17. That Old-Time Religion 104
  • Epochal Battle or Mud Fight? 111
  • 18. "I'Ll Carry It" 113
  • 19. "Helms Can't Win" 117
  • 20. the D'Aubuisson Connection 122
  • 21. the School of Hard Knox 128
  • 22. the Windsor Story 136
  • 23. When Helms Wasn't Helms 139
  • 24. Time Out for Party Time 146
  • 25. the Big Guns of August 150
  • The Helmsmen Ride High 157
  • 26. a Severe Identity Crisis 159
  • 27. the Reagan Tide 167
  • 28. "Macabre Wild Card" 179
  • 30. Search and Destroy 186
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 194
  • 31. a Dead Heat? 201
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