Helms and Hunt: The North Carolina Senate Race, 1984

By William D. Snider | Go to book overview

and its chief protagonist, declared: " Helms is not a handsome rascal nor is he charismatic in any ordinary way. But he does have strong convictions and the courage to defend them. He is a national figure for a number of reasons. He is stridently and inflexibly conservative, which makes him a minority in a minority. In other words he sticks out in a crowd and doesn't in the least mind the exposure. He is a winning politician."


15. A Family Spat

While Jesse Helms spent most of 1982 struggling in vain to enact his New Right social programs in Congress, Jim Hunt's organization back home began gearing up for the political battles of 1984.

Hunt's people were vastly encouraged by the outcome of the 1982 general elections. Helms's National Congressional Club had invested heavily in seven Tar Heel congressional campaigns. None succeeded. Bill Cobey, the GOP hopeful from Chapel Hill, spent more than five hundred thousand dollars trying to unseat Congressman Ike Andrews, damaged by a drunken driving conviction two weeks before the election. Instead of winning additional congressional seats the Tar Heel GOP lost two of its four incumbents.

The Helms camp blame dthe poor results on the nations' pocketbook nerve. The election was not a referendum on Jesse Helms, observed Tom Ellis. It was a referendum on unemployment and the Reagan administration's economic program.

Hunt agreed that the "Reagan recession" had been a plus factor, but he also thought the voters were concerned about negative GOP campaigning. Hunt's own lieutenants even then agonized over how hard-hitting Hunfs own campaigning should be as they struggled to build a fund-raising mechanism to offset Helms's formidable money machine. One newspaper noted that Hunt himself had indulged in a bit of negativism by accusing the Fifth District congressional candidate, Anne Bagnal, of "lying" in her contest against Congressman Steve Neal.

Former congressman Richardson Preyer, a cochairman of Hunt's upcoming campaign, answered somewhat tentatively when asked about the

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