Is The Old Guard Fading In North Carolina Politics?
Posted August 23, 2001
RALEIGH — North Carolina political giants Jim Hunt, Jim Graham, and Harlan Boyles have all said "I will not run," and now, Sen. Jesse Helms has said it as well.
Some say the 'old guard' is fading, and old-style North Carolina politics is fading with them.
"I'm having a hard time saying that we're in some sort of cataclysmic change in politics. I think that the Helms reign, and now retirement, is a singular event," said Bernie Reeves.
Reeves, publisher of Metro Magazine, says it would be premature to write off the things that kept the old guards of North Carolina politics in office for decades. At the top of the list is love for their state.
"Jesse Helms cared, and Thad Eure cared, and Jim Graham cared, and Edwin Gill cared, and Harlan Boyles cared. Most of our great statesmen cared about our state, and I think that's the great common denominator and something unusual," said Reeves.
That is unusual compared to other states, says Reeves, in that North Carolina voters often look past political polish in favor of Southern virtues like honesty and modesty.
"Whoever can capture that and put that in a can, I think they will get somewhere in politics in North Carolina," said Reeves.
Reeves believes Helms, love him or hate him, personified these virtues in a way that future political hopefuls dare not mimick.
"I think there's going to be a vacuum, and I think people might start looking insignificant when they try to fill it for awhile," said Reeves.
Reeves will not speculate on who may replace Helms but he says the one who gets Jesse's blessings will be hard to beat.