With the U.S. Senate primaries looming ahead on Sept. 10, six underdog North Carolina Republican candidates are pressing onward in their efforts to counteract the political powerhouse that is Elizabeth Dole.
Dole, who visited Duke last week, is the clear favorite in the upcoming election, having received public support from both President George W. Bush and Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., whose seat Dole aims to take when he retires after five terms in office.
Dole's campaign platform, of which she spoke last Thursday in Page Auditorium, includes tax relief, trade enforcement to protect manufacturing, local control of education and strengthening of national defense.
Mary Ellison Baars, president and founder of Duke Students for Dole, said that Dole's distinguished credentials will enhance her ability as a senator.
"Through her past experiences, whether in government as a member of two presidents' cabinets or in humanitarian service as Red Cross president, she is able to bring huge depth and wisdom to the U.S. Senate," said Baars, a sophomore.
Jeff Raileanu, president of Duke University College Republicans, also expressed his support for Dole. "I'm confident that she'll get the nomination and, if elected, she'll do what is right for North Carolina," said Raileanu, a junior.
Some critics, however, said Dole is not conservative enough for the job. Senior Bill English, president of the Duke Conservative Union, said that he is not satisfied with Dole's front-runner status.
"All conservatives have to be a little disappointed that Elizabeth Dole will most likely win the primary." Nevertheless, he added, "It would be 10 times better to have even a moderate Republican than any of her Democratic challengers in office."
One of Dole's leading challengers, attorney Jim Snyder of Lexington, N.C., shared English's views. A strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an opponent of abortion, he claimed to be the true conservative candidate in the race as opposed to Dole, who he feels is too moderate in her beliefs.
Snyder promised to uphold the conservative precedent set by Helms.
"If she wins the nomination, I'm concerned she can't win the final election because she doesn't have the conservative base," he said.
Snyder also criticized Dole's own allegiance to Washington, D.C., not North Carolina. "The [federal] government wants to take over the Republican election. They are so concerned about having someone to do their bidding. They know I won't," he said.
Josh Hutton, a sophomore who interned for Snyder's campaign last summer, touted Snyder's local roots.
"He's lived and worked here all his life, in contrast to Mrs. Dole, who hasn't lived here for a long time and is just returning to our state to run for office."
Another conservative candidate gaining momentum is Dr. Jim Parker, a Lumberton, N.C., physician who supports Second Amendment rights and lower taxes, and denounces affirmative action and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Parker called Dole "the big-government candidate hand-picked to win this election. We still have time to win this election and send a message to Washington that we will pick our own senator," he said.
Candidate Timothy Cook, a textile chemist from Browns Summit, N.C., was critical of excessive salaries for charity CEOs. He argued that Dole has an unfair financial advantage. "If I had worked for the Red Cross instead of being a chemist, I could be running a much better campaign," he said.
But candidate Douglas Sellers, an insurance agent from Rockwell, N.C., downplayed the financial aspect of the race.
"Elections are about people, not money," Sellers said.
Dr. Ada Fisher, a candidate from Dole's hometown of Salisbury, N.C., remained optimistic. "I'm going to win if people vote the issues. Everyone else is talking in platitudes."
Dr. Venkat Challa, a pathologist from Lewisville, N.C., hoped for a strong showing in the primary. "If I win, I win," he said.
Although Dole is not his first choice, English, who is also a Chronicle columnist, said he was resigned to the likelihood that she will move on to the November election. "At the end of the day, we're all gonna end up voting for Liddy," he said.
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