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Gubernatorial Candidates Bring Out Big Names in Air War

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RALEIGH — The candidates in one of the state's hotly contested races are making one last attempt to connect with voters.

The state's two top contenders for governor were far away from the State Capitol Saturday. Republican candidateRichard Vinrootcampaigned at the coast while DemocratMike Easleywent to Charlotte. They were also in many living rooms, bringing some big names with them in some cases.

Presidential candidate George W. Bush stars in a Vinroot ad. Vinroot is behind in the polls, but Bush is ahead. Political analyst Ferrel Guillory says that Vinroot has a two-pronged strategy.

"One is to tie himself to George W. Bush, and two is to go 'negative,' as they say, against Easley," he says.

With Vice President Al Gore behind in North Carolina, Vinroot is using the image of Easley putting his arm around the vice president in an attempt to pull Easley down.

Some Democratic strategists think the strategy will fail.

"I give the voters of North Carolina a little more credit than the Republicans," says Dan Gurley, the director of the N.C. Democratic Party. "I think voters are going to cast their ballots based on who they think is best to do that job."

But Democrats have also pulled in a guest star to give Easley a lift -- a familiar face from Mayberry named Andy Griffith. The Republicans have a theory.

"While Andy Griffith may be a Democrat in support of Mike Easley, I don't think there's any question in my mind that Sheriff Andy Taylor is a Republican," says Scott Falnlen, the N.C. Republican Party's political director.

North Carolina has voted for the Republican candidate for President in every election since 1976. After Tuesday, we will know if the state's voters follow a more recent tradition: electing Democratic governors.

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Chip Muller, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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