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Democratic Senate Candidates Meet Voters, Set Course For Campaigns

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RALEIGH — Candidates for North Carolina's U.S. Senate seat are redefining their campaigns in the wake of Sept. 11's terrorist attacks.

At a breakfast sponsored by the activist think tank

Common Sense Foundation

, candidates seeking the Democratic nomination made pitches around the theme of a country recovering from terrorist attacks.

Rep. Dan Blue, a former House speaker, advocates a strong education policy.

"Because part of what he have to do is ensure that every child is educated to the maximum extent possible. That is an important part of our national security. Those who are going to figure out how we attack and how we do various other things have to be the smartest people in the world," says Blue.

"As long as there are children lagging behind in math and sciences and language skills we are not giving them the freedom they deserve. As long as there are out-of-work fathers with working families that are hurting, they are not enjoying freedom," says N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

Charlotte Superior Court Judge Ray Warren threw the only punch at Jesse Helms.

"We need to replace Senator No with a senator who will say yes -- yes to public transit, yes to bikeways, yes to sidewalks designed to connect our communities in ways not dependent on the automobile," says Warren.

One speaker, former Durham City Council woman Cynthia Brown, is still exploring the possibility of a senate run.

Republican candidates Richard Vinroot and Elizabeth Dole did not attend the meeting.

On Sept. 11, Dole was planning to announce her candidacy at a high-profile event in her hometown of Salisbury. That announcement was canceled after the attacks on New York and Washington.

Dole is moving full speed ahead with her campaign.She embarked on a 100-county tour of the state in Greenville Monday. She will make stops in Goldsboro and Smithfield on Tuesday.

Dole has also received the endorsement of former U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth. Faircloth says he would like to serve as a senior advisor on Dole's campaign.

Faircloth briefly considered his own run for the Senate seat after Sen. Jesse Helms announced he would not be seeking re-election.

Organizers say the issues that interest voters have changed since September 11th's terrorist attacks.

"I think what they're looking for is somebody who can lead in a time of crisis. Bush was a governor, he had no international experience but he's getting good reviews for how he's handling this crisis," says Chris Fitzsimon of the Common Sense Foundation.

Experts say the economy could be the sleeping giant of the 2002 election. As Triangle residents cope with layoffs in the airline and high-tech sectors, many are looking for a U.S. senator who will protect their paychecks.

"The effects of the economy on people's paychecks, on their jobs, on their ability to find a new job is a defining issue made more difficult by the events of September 11," says Fitzsimon.


Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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