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Campbell: Race May Have Been Factor In State Auditor Campaign

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Ralph Campbell
RALEIGH, N.C. — Ralph Campbell has served as North Carolina's state auditor for the past 12 years. In November, the Raleigh Democrat lost his bid for a fourth term to Republican Les Merritt. Now, Campbell said he felt somewhat betrayed by the state Democractic Party, that his tough audits cost him votes, but more importantly, he believes he lost the race because he is African-American.

In a stroke of irony, Campbell signed his retirement papers on Thursday, something the auditor does for every state retiree. He leaves with close to 3,600 audits under his belt.

Campbell said his tough audits cost him votes, particularly the


of the Department of Health and Human Services. When asked whether the DHHS audit cost him the election, Campbell responded, "I think it was one of the issues."

Following the audit, he was criticized by Secretary Carmen Hooker-Odom and Campbell shot back.

"Let me one, thank the secretary for her magnanimous gesture for working together as I pull the daggers and arrows out of my back from the beginning part of that presentation," he said during the April 2004 meeting.

"The governor was not happy with that audit," he said. "He was unhappy with me and he was unhappy with me having to report those numbers."

Campbell said he does not have any regrets about his career, but he said there is a legitimate concern -- the role of race in North Carolina.

"Race is still an issue we have to deal with," he said.

When Campbell first ran statewide in 1992, he was told he would have better luck if he did not show his face on campaign materials. Reluctantly, he agreed and vividly remembers what he was told by a poll worker in Harnett County.

"At some point in time, a number of people came back to the polls because they wanted to change their vote because they didn't realize Ralph Campbell was an African-American," he said.

Campbell won that year by 235,000 votes, but that was the last time he would see so many votes. Because while other Council of State incumbents added to their vote totals, Campbell's votes shrank. By November 2004, he lost by 28,000 votes.

Campbell has some advice to his successor, "Do the right thing."


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