Local News

Hunt Endorses Bowles Prior To Primary

Posted March 29, 2002 6:43 a.m. EST

— Former Gov. Jim Hunt on Thursday endorsed former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, angering other Democrats in the race.

Hunt, who appointed Bowles chairman of the state's Rural Prosperity Task Force in 1999, said the Charlotte investment banker is the most qualified person for the job because of his background in business and government.

``We are facing a very important time in the history of our state and nation, and North Carolina's families need someone like Erskine in the Senate who will work to stimulate our economy, create jobs and support our public schools,'' Hunt said. ``Erskine is a doer, not a talker, and he will do great things for the people of North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.''

Bowles cited his longtime friendship with Hunt in receiving the endorsement.

Hunt was elected lieutenant governor in 1972, the same year Bowles' father, Skipper, was defeated by former Gov. Jim Holshouser.

``I have known and admired Jim Hunt for more than 30 years. He has been an inspiration to me; he has encouraged me and continues to be an important source of advice and counsel,'' Bowles said.

The endorsement wasn't well received by fellow Democratic candidates Elaine Marshall and Dan Blue.

``I think it's a big mistake on the governor's part,'' said Marshall, who is secretary of state and has received a campaign donation from Hunt. ``I respect his right to do it, but we have had plenty of lessons in the past of the inability of the party to come back together (after a primary). There is that potential.''

Blue said he understood that Hunt has a long history with the Bowles family, but that he should leave the outcome of the race to Democratic voters.

``I hope this does not set a precedent for Democratic statesmen to endorse in a contested Democratic primary,'' Blue said.

Earlier this year, Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole was endorsed by the man she is seeking to replace, retiring Sen. Jesse Helms. She also received the endorsement of President Bush.

Both moves angered the crowded field of Republicans also seeking the party's nomination.

In all, nine Democrats are seeking their party's nomination.

They are Bowles, Marshall, Blue, former Durham City Council member Cynthia Brown, Bob Ayers of Swansboro, Randy Crow of Wilmington, David Tidwell of Randolph County, Duke Underwood of Mebane and Albert Wiley of Carteret County.

The primary, which was scheduled for May 7, has been delayed pending a decision by the state Supreme County over the constitutionality of new legislative districts.