Chapter 1: Hunt vs. Helms: The expensive, negative & nasty campaign for
United States Senator in the history of the Tar Heel State
4:12 PM EST, Friday, July 6th, 1984
The 1984 NC US Senate contest was getting nasty, bitter & downright ugly between popular NC Governor James Baxter "Jim" Hunt, Jr., (D) & hardcore conservative icon United States Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC).
Hunt had a commanding lead in opinion polls for much of the campaign, with one poll in 1983 putting him 19 percentage points ahead of Helms. However, that changed by the most bitterly contested election in the country by 1984. Hunt ran a TV Advertising commercial, connecting Helms to death squads in El Salvador through his association with the Nationalist Republican Alliance, for whom Roberto d'Aubisson had recently ran for President of El Salvador. In response, Helms, who was notoriously known for his special diet of aggressive race-baiting & staunch support from hardcore Dixiecrat segregationists, was upping the ante even further by running hard-hitting aggressive commercials attacking Hunt's reputation as Governor, even criticizing Hunt for not serving in the US Military (Helms served in the US Navy during World War II). The Helms campaign's aggressiveness even had escalated to the point of encouraging some of Helms' supporters & campaign allies employing racially-charged tactics to discourage or intimidate minority voters from showing up to the polls with threats of violence or much violent tactics.
North Carolinians were awaiting the results with just a few months to go with twists & turns, nobody knew who would be emerging victorious in November, it was going to have major ramifications on Tar Heel State politics in the coming years going forward...
Post by 49ersfootball on Feb 10, 2020 20:56:09 GMT
3:31 PM EST, Monday, July 17th, 1984
NC Executive Mansion, Raleigh, NC.
Despite some slippage in several polling surveys (due to Helms' violent race-baiting & non-stop negative attacks hammering Hunt's record as Governor), which caused the NC US Senate contest to be very, very TIGHT, popular 2-term NC Governor James Baxter Hunt, Jr., (D)'s prospects of beating Helms was considered bright: Hunt had highlighted his successful accomplishments as NC's 69th Governor: turning around a budget deficit & having a record budget surplus, appointing more women, African Americans, Latinos & others to offices, boards, commissions in state government than any of his predecessors had done. He had also appointed the first African American Cabinet Secretary, first African American Court of Appeals Judge & first African American to the NC Supreme Court. Hunt had also been pushing for civil rights long before getting to the NC Executive Mansion. In 1970, as chairman of the NC Dems Reform Commission, he expedited a rewrite of party rules to requiring more participation by African Americans, women & the youth. He also pushed the NC Dems to reaching out to minority voters.
Elected as NC's 27th Lieutenant Governor in 1972 during the GOP landslide, when then-US President Richard Nixon won reelection in a massive landslide over the hapless Dem nominee, then-United States Senator George McGovern (D-SD) & among Nixon's coattails, conservative icon Jesse Helms (R) won the NC US Senate contest as well as the election of Jim Holshouser (R) to the Governorship, making Holshouser the first GOPer to serve as the Tar Heel State's Governor since Reconstruction; Hunt began working successfully with then-Governor Holshouser across political party lines---to pass a $300 million bond issue to raising teacher pay (which other US State Governors would push for years later) & establishing statewide kindergartens. Both Hunt & Holshouser teamed up to pass the Coastal Area Management Act, which provided for the presentation & management of the 20 coastal counties between VA & SC. He was also a strong advocate for the medical school at East Carolina University. He also served as President of the NC State Senate, member of the Council of State, NC Board of Education, NC Capital Planning Commission & NC Board of Community Colleges including serving as Chairman of the eLearning Commission.
Prevented from succeeding himself as Lieutenant Governor, Hunt had his eyes on the NC Executive Mansion in 1976 & the NC Dems were badly itching to get the Governorship back after losing it 4 years earlier. Hunt declared his candidacy in April of 1976, campaigning on a platform that stressed crime prevention, economic development & education. Fast forward to Election Night: Tuesday, November 2nd, 1976, Hunt emerged victorious easily crushing David Flaherty (R) in a landslide victory garnering 1,081,293 votes (64.99%) to Flaherty's 564,102 votes (33.90%) & carried 96 out of 100 Counties; Hunt was inaugurated on January 9th, 1977. Once in office, during the early part of Hunt's 1st term, he introduced a double-pronged strategy designed to encourage long-term economic growth in the Tar Heel State, first by improving education & second, by recruiting more industries with high-paying jobs. While successfully passing measures to achieve these goals, he also coped with several issues that caught national interest. The first of these was then-US Health, Education & Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano's campaign to outlaw cigarette smoking. This controversial campaign from the administration of then-US President Jerry Brown would've had the effect of dramatically lessening the profitability of NC's major cash crop. The second major state issue of national interest occurred when Califano struck again, this time announcing that the University of North Carolina System had failed to adequately desegregate.
During Hunt's 1st term, the Dem-controlled NC General Assembly passed a measure allowing the Governor to serve 2 consecutive 4-year terms with the option of seeking 3rd & 4th terms after sitting out one election for 4 years; taking advantage of this opportunity, Hunt chose to seek reelection to a 2nd term, which drew a primary challenge from former NC Governor Robert W. Scott (D).... which Hunt won pretty easily & slightly distancing himself from the unpopular President Brown (who chose not to seek reelection due to his administration's disastrous foreign policy & economic blunders) & then-US Vice President Jimmy Carter (who became the Dem nominee for President) in 1980, where the Reagan Revolution was taking over all over the United States, Hunt won reelection very handily defeating I. Beverly Lake (R) on November 4th, 1980, garnering 1,143,145 votes (61.88%) to Lake's 691,449 votes (37.43%): he also carried 91 out of 100 Counties; he was inaugurated for a 2nd 4-year term on January 10th, 1981.
He was considered too controversial, heartless, rotten to the core & also one of the most violent racist, white supremacist & hardcore segregationist. Others viewed him as telling it like it is, standing up for conservative values, a true patriot to the Silent Majority. These are the descriptions most people viewed United States Senator Jesse Alexander Helms (R-NC).
Helms helped organize & fund the conservative resurgence in the 1970s, focusing on Ronald Reagan's quest for the White House (ultimately successful in 1980) as well as helping many local & regional candidates. He was also credited with shifting the one-party dominance in the Tar Heel State, turning it into a competitive two-party state. He advocated the movement of conservatives from the Dems---which they deemed too liberal---to the GOP. The Helms-controlled National Congressional Club's state of the art direct mail operation raised millions of dollars for Helms & other conservative candidates, allowing Helms to outspend his opponents in most of his campaigns. Helms was the most stridently conservative politician of the post-1960s era, especially in opposition to federal intervention into what he considered state affairs (including legislating integration via the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & enforcing suffrage through the Voting Rights Act of 1965).
In domestic affairs, Helms promoted industrial development in the South, seeking low taxes & few labor unions so as to attract northern & international corporations to relocate to NC. On social issues, Helms was staunchly conservative. He was a master obstructionist who relished & thrived his nickname, "Senator No". He combined cultural, social & economic conservatism, which often helped his legislation win wide public support. He fought aggressively what he considered to be liberalism whenever it was on the agenda, staunchly opposing civil rights, disability rights, feminism, LGBT rights, affirmative action, abortions, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act & the National Endowment of the Arts. Helms brought an aggressiveness to his hardcore conservatism, as in his violent rhetoric against federal funds for minority owned businesses, which he deemed racial quotas & welfare handouts.