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As Hunt Era Ends, State Looks Back at Legacy

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RALEIGH — As the epic term of Gov. Jim Hunt ends Saturday, this friends and supporters are looking back at his legendary political career. '84 Senate Race Brought Hunt to Middle, Set Agenda for Second Run for GovernorBy the end of his second gubernatorial term in 1983, he had begun to reshape the Democratic Party and himself.

Gone were the days of sideburns and slicked-back hair. But something else would be lost in the coming years -- his 1984 race for Jesse Helms' seat in the U.S. Senate.

The loss taught Hunt to refocus. He then led the fight for the party to govern from the middle. Accomplishments Mounted Over the YearsThe creation of Smart Start would be the first of several major victories in Hunt's second time around. Other education gains were made, including higher SAT scores and less violence in schools.

Hunt also believed in putting inmates to work on the roads and after hurricanes.

There was also economic growth in the Hunt years -- 600,000 new jobs in the past eight years.

By most accounts, Hunt leaves his party and state better than he found it in both 1977 and again in 1993.

"He's been a very successful governor," says Governor-elect Mike Easley. "Somebody who's been admired not just by North Carolina, but all over the country."

With the Hunt successes, there are those who remind us hat Hunt did have a few missteps, including the Algie Toomer scandal.

Even so, no one can deny one of Hunt's legacies -- changing the state constitution. Before Hunt, a N.C. governor could not seek re-election after serving a four-year term. He spurred the change in the constitution that would allow his second shot at the Executive Mansion in the 1990s.

Before Hunt, N.C. was the only state in which the governor had no veto power. He changed that, too.

He appointed at least 12,000 people to state boards and commissions, 38 superior court Judges and 81 judges to district courts.

He fought for relief money when Down East areas were all but wiped off the map by Hurricane Floyd's flooding. Still Work to DoJim Hunt leaves Raleigh proud of his accomplishments, but always reminding us that there is more to be done.

"By 2010, we want our schools to be first in America," he says. "I hope everybody who's listening and watching us will believe we can do that and will be part of helping our neighbors become the best they can be."