Local News

Bush Coming To Raleigh To Raise Support For N.C. Republican Party

Posted June 23, 2004 9:54 a.m. EDT

— On July 7, the Secret Service will be patrolling Wake County. President Bush is scheduled to visit that day to drum up support for the Republican Party.

Numbers show some candidates could use the help.

In the race for Senate,

WRAL's Voters' Voice poll

gives Democrat Erskine Bowles a solid lead over Republican Richard Burr. But 14 percent of voters still have not decided.

A different survey gives Gov. Easley the advantage over any Republican challenger.

President Bush has been to North Carolina before -- Charlotte, the Triad, Fayetteville. Now, he will hit Raleigh, attending a $25,000-a-plate luncheon to raise money for the state Republican Party's Get Out the Vote campaign.

"I think he thinks Eastern North Carolina is important, and it is," local Republican activist Tom Ellis said. "You know, normally, a Republican can lead until he gets to Raleigh. And, like Jesse Helms used to say, by the time you put your foot in the Atlantic Ocean, you lose."

Ellis hosted Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, when he visited the Triangle as Vice President in the 1980s. Now, Cliff and Peggy Benson -- members of a family with an interesting political background here -- will host the younger Bush.

The Benson name may seem familiar. The Beltine is named after Cliff Benson Sr., who was the Transportation Secretary under Democratic Gov. Dan Moore.

Former N.C. Republican Chairman Jack Hawke found it interesting that the president's visit is being sponsored by the Democratic Benson's son.

"To me, this is an indication of a lot of things that have happened in the last 40 years in North Carolina with a whole new generation," Hawke said. "A lot from solid Democratic families are now Republican."

Cliff Benson Jr. has been a major donor to his alma mater, Wake Forest University. One gift gave him the naming rights to the new student union, and the Republican named the building after his Democratic father.

The Bensons are the former owners of Carolina Builders. They reportedly sold the business several years ago for millions.

There has been no word yet on whether President Bush will make any public appearances when he comes to Raleigh.