Local News

Democrats for Senate Intensifying Campaigning

Posted August 20, 2002 6:34 a.m. EDT

— With three weeks before the primary, the major Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are intensifying efforts to get out their message.

Elaine Marshall is caravanning around western North Carolina, Erskine Bowles is airing new commercials and Dan Blue is keeping to the campaign trail to reach more undecided citizens.

Cynthia Brown will soon set aside her day job as a consultant for nonprofits to focus on the Sept. 10 primary.

"She'll work two more days at the end of the month. Otherwise, she'll be out" campaigning, spokesman Ken McDouall said.

Marshall, the secretary of state, on Monday began her "Main Street Marathon," a barnstorming tour of at least 67 communities in the next 17 days. She visited Gastonia, Lincolnton and Shelby. Stops were scheduled Tuesday for Asheville and other mountain points.

"The marathon is off to a good start," Marshall said by phone from outside a Shelby cafeteria where she met patrons Monday.

The tour began as Marshall and Blue have picked up their criticism of Bowles, the former White House chief of staff. Bowles has positioned himself as a front-runner for the party's nomination to replace outgoing Sen. Jesse Helms by focusing on a potential general election fight with Republican candidate Elizabeth Dole.

"Everybody needs to run to win. Erskine is running to win," Bowles spokesman Brad Woodhouse said. "We think he certainly will be the nominee."

Blue and Marshall think it's not so definite.

"He's got the most money and some people equate money with front runner," Marshall said before her trip. "I'm focusing on what I think is important and if he thinks focusing on Mrs. Dole is important, that's his choice."

Marshall and Blue, who both trail the cash-flush Bowles in fund-raising, have criticized him for his close connections to the corporate world. They have tried to link some bad investments by the New York investment firm for which Bowles worked to the corporate accountability scandals.

"One of the major challenges we're going to have in this country is restoring faith in the markets," Blue said late last week. "You need somebody who is not saddled with all of these relationships with the corporate bottom line."

Bowles has strongly denied any links to these scandals and call the accusations politically motivated.

"It's not surprising that other candidates are increasing the attacks on him," Woodhouse said.

Bowles continues to keep Dole in his sights, chiding her at a Charlotte campaign stop last week for her views on Social Security.

His campaign also unveiled two new television ads last week.

One focuses on his efforts in Washington working with Republicans to get a balanced budget in place in 1997. The second uses his trademark large eyeglasses to talk about working to get eye wear to all schoolchildren who need them. Blue's camp called the ads misleading.

Bowles, one of nine Democrats seeking the nomination, is currently the only major Senate candidate running television commercials. Dole stopped her ads recently, apparently to hold cash for the general election. The six other Republican candidates, largely unknown to the state's voters, haven't drawn anywhere near as much attention in coverage or advertising.

Bowles has several events planned mostly in the Piedmont, with a trip to a senior center in Wilmington on Wednesday. Blue scheduled appearances in Charlotte on Tuesday as has Brown. She also plans appearances this week in Fayetteville and Asheville.