Ex-Mayor Faces Prosecutor in N.C. Runoff for U.S. Senate With PM-Primaries Rdp, Bjt
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ A former mayor seeking to become North Carolina’s first black candidate for statewide office this century faced a prosecutor in a Democratic runoff today for the right to challenge Sen. Jesse Helms.
Harvey Gantt, the 46-year-old former two-term mayor of Charlotte, and 39- year-old Southport District Attorney Mike Easley avoided attacks on each other during the campaign, instead saying their priority is unseating the Republican Helms.
Helms already has the GOP nomination and has been running commercials attacking both Democrats.
Gantt led a six-candidate field in the May 8 primary but failed to reach the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff between the top two vote-getters.
Easley, who received 30 percent to Gantt’s 37 percent, demanded the runoff despite Gantt’s pleas to avoid one for the sake of Democratic unity.
After voting today in Charlotte, Gantt said: ″We’d like to carry the West. And we’d like to carry the East, just to prove a point.″
And he said he was eager to campaign against Helms. ″I’m ready to get into this fight,″ he said. ″I’m ready to get it on with him.″
Easley, in Greenville, accused Helms of running far more ads against him than against Gantt because the senator ″would rather beat me in the last five days of the primary than face me for five months in the election.″
Beth Burrus, a spokeswoman for the Helms campaign, said that there is no attempt to single out Easley and that Helms doesn’t care who wins the runoff.
″The polls show that it’s going to be a very close race whoever wins,″ she said. ″Both candidates lead Helms at this time.″