With 87 percent of
, Dole had 1,088,531votes, or 54 percent, according to unofficial returns. Bowles had910,448 votes, or 45 percent.
Libertarian Sean Haugh had one percent of the vote.
Dole, a Republican who served as a Cabinet secretary under twopresidents, is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate fromNorth Carolina.
At a rally in her hometown of Salisbury, Dole pledged to workfor all North Carolinians - Republicans and Democrats.
"I wanted to run because I wanted to help people," Dole said,with her husband, former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, at her side. "They worked for me; I want to work for them."
Dole spoke to the crowd after Bowles telephoned her to concede.
Helms, nearing the end of his final term, said he was not surprised by the outcome.
"She's a great campaigner," Helms told WRAL by phone from his home in the Washington area. "She had a lot of people campaigning with her and for her.
"You could tell by the volume of the approval at these rallies whether people are genuinely supportive, and they were genuinely supportive of Elizabeth Dole."
Bowles, the Democratic former White House chief of staff,appeared almost relieved that his long race against Dole was over as he spoke to about 200 supporters in Raleigh.
He said Dole had earned the victory.
"I did everything I could,: Bowles said. "I couldn't do any more.
"I wanted to serve, and now I will have to find another wayto do that."
Preliminary results showed Dole won a string of Piedmontcounties where Republicans traditionally do well. But she alsooutperformed Bowles in several Democratic strongholds in the East, winning counties including Wayne, Wilson, Harnett and Greene.
Helms, a Republican, has long found support in those easterncounties, which have large populations of conservative Democratsnicknamed "Jessecrats."
But at times they have spelled troublefor Republicans in statewide races, backing Democrats such as Sen. John Edwards in 1998 and Gov. Mike Easley in 2000.
Bowles did well in urban counties, including Durham and Wake andareas along the South Carolina border, and he held his own in some mountain counties.
The Associated Press declared Dole the winner shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Bowles called her to concede a little more than 30 minutes later.
Shortly after she was declared the winner, Dole received a congratulatory phone call from President Bush.
The celebration was raucous at Dole's campaign headquarters in Salisbury.
"I am as thrilled as you are," Dole told a large crowd of her supporters. "We'll never forget this night, will we?
"I just took a call from Erskine Bowles. He was very gracious. I want to ask those who voted for Erskine Bowles to please give me a chance. I intend to be a senator for all of North Carolina."
Helms called his Senate replacement a "fine, capable lady.
"Hers is a proven record of ability and leadership throughouther career," he said. "She'll make a great senator."
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