North Carolina: Junior Senator|
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R)
Last Updated September 15, 2003
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R)
1st term up 2008
July 29, 1936,
Duke U., B.A. 1958, Harvard U., M.A. 1960, J.D. 1965
Deputy Asst., U.S. Consumer Affairs, 1969-73; Fed. Trade Commission, 1973-79; Public liason, U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan, 1981-83; Secy., U.S. Dept. of Trans., 1983-87; Secy., Dept. of Labor, 1989-90; Pres., Amer. Red Cross, 1991-95, 1997-99.
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Elizabeth Dole, former Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Labor, former president of the American Red Cross and candidate for president, was elected senator from North Carolina in 2002. She grew up in Salisbury, in the Piedmont textile country between Charlotte and Greensboro; her father was a wholesale florist and her mother had the pleasure of attending, at 101, her daughter's election night celebration. Elizabeth Hanford, as she then was graduated from Duke, got a master's in education at Harvard and taught school in Boston. She spent the summer of 1960 working in the office of North Carolina Senator B. Everett Jordan; in the fall, she worked on Lyndon Johnson's campaign train through the South. In 1962 she went to Harvard Law School, one of 29 women in a class of 550; her classmates included future Congresswomen Patricia Schroeder and Elizabeth Holtzman. In summers she worked at the Peace Corps headquarters, the United Nations and Oxford University. After graduation she practiced law briefly in Washington. With help from Democratic Governor Terry Sanford she got a job at HEW, then at the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. She stayed on after the change in administrations in 1969 and changed her registration from Democratic to Independent; she worked on projects like freshness dating on food products. In 1973 she was nominated to a six-year term on the Federal Trade Commission. In 1975 she married Senator Bob Dole and campaigned with him when he was nominated for vice president in 1976.
In all these jobs she was a hard-working perfectionist with no sharp ideological edge. She always maintained her gracious Southern manners and showed an enthusiasm and friendliness that was off-putting to some but which served her well in a series of positions that few or no women had held. When asked during the 2002 campaign if she was a feminist, she said, "I think it depends on how you define the word 'feminist.' If you are talking about equal rights and equal opportunities--absolutely. My whole career has been spent trying to help women reach their full potential--women and minorities. If you are talking about something like a prepackaged plan handed down by the political correctness club--no." In 1981 she headed Ronald Reagan's Public Liaison office and in 1983 she was appointed Secretary of Transportation; in that capacity, she likes to point out, she was the first woman to head a branch of the armed services, the Coast Guard. In 1989 George H. W. Bush appointed her Secretary of Labor. In 1991 she became head of the American Red Cross, which had grave organizational problems and whose blood bank program was in trouble. She restructured the organization and put in place new blood bank procedures. She took a leave of absence to work on her husband's presidential campaign from November 1995 to January 1997; many will remember her speech about her husband at the San Diego convention, in which she walked about and spoke fluently and fervently. In 1999 she resigned from the Red Cross to run for president. She placed third in the August 1999 Iowa straw poll, but dropped out of the race in October. She did not endorse George W. Bush at that point and did not take a job in the Bush administration.
In early 2001 it was not clear whether North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms would run for reelection. He was in poor health and would turn 80 in 2002; although his strong conservatism and outspokenness made him very popular with many voters in North Carolina, he was also highly unpopular with nearly as many others. In early 2001 White House political strategists were already looking at Dole as a possible candidate, and in August 2001 she said she would give the race "serious consideration" if Helms did not run. Later that month, he announced his retirement. Dole moved back to her mother's house in Salisbury and registered to vote. She planned a big announcement event in Salisbury for September 11 that of course was cancelled. She started out with very high ratings from the public. An October 2001 Republican poll showed her leading former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot in the Republican primary, by 76%-14%, and in the general beating the strongest Democratic candidate, former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles by 65%-27%. But some Republican insiders worried that Dole would be a brittle candidate. Her perfectionism and insistence on tight control of every public event would keep her distant to the voters, they feared, and a campaign based on her Washington resume would seem out of touch with North Carolina voters.
Dole did not make these mistakes. Instead she made two very shrewd decisions. One was to conduct a tour of all of North Carolina's 100 counties. Everywhere she drew crowds, not just in the big metro areas but also in small towns--175 in Hendersonville, 120 in Mars Hill, 200 in Asheville. People mobbed her, asked for autographs, and clicked photos of her. Sometimes they also noticed Bob Dole, traveling with her over back roads. "I'll be glad to be a dollar-a-year consultant. Or I'll stay home. Whatever she wants," he said. When Elizabeth Dole was asked if she was reconnecting with North Carolina after living out of the state for 42 years, she said, "There has not been any reconnection, because I've been here so much. My roots are deep in North Carolina. I've never really left. This is home to me. Washington is where I work." She said that she had a religious renewal in the early 1980s and that her religious faith was the center of her life and that she hoped that September 11 would cause a "spiritual renewal." She called on her listeners to be "prayer warriors" for her campaign. In November 2001 Vinroot dropped out of the race; her other competitors were little-known and attracted little attention or support. When they questioned her conservatism, she said, "Just to set the record straight, in case there is any misunderstanding, I am pro-life and I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens." In February 2002 Helms endorsed her. Their connections went back a long way: Helms had been a friend of her mother since his first campaign in 1972; Bob Dole had asked for Helms to vouch for him with her when he was wooing her daughter.
Dole's other wise decision was to develop a set of specific stands on issues and distribute them as the "Dole Plan." She set out a detailed plan for individual investment accounts in Social Security. On taxes she called for higher depreciation, more flexibility for Medical Savings Accounts and permanent repeal of the estate tax. On corporate accountability, she called for companies to purchase insurance policies and for the insurers to conduct independent audits. On gun control she switched her positions from her 1999 campaign, this time opposing background checks on individuals' sales of guns at gun shows and a ban on assault weapons. Tobacco and textiles have long been political issues in North Carolina: Dole presented a plan for buying out tobacco quotas and called for electronic labeling of U.S.-manufactured cloth to enable duties to be laid on imports of cloth falsely labeled Made in U.S.A.
But she favored trade promotion authority, which was opposed by all the other three Republicans and six Democrats running for the seat. It was widely believed that North Carolina had lost many textile jobs since NAFTA went into effect in 1995. Yet North Carolina Democrats like Governor Jim Hunt and Bowles, then Bill Clinton's head of the Small Business Administration, had supported NAFTA when it was voted on in 1993. The state's economy had mostly boomed in the years after NAFTA came in. But Hunt was not running, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, the first candidate in the race, strongly criticized NAFTA and opposed trade promotion authority. So did state Representative Dan Blue, who had been the first black Speaker of North Carolina's House. And so did Bowles. Though he had supported NAFTA and had lobbied Congress to give Clinton trade promotion authority, he opposed it now. "I made a mistake. I won't vote for fast track or slow track. We've got to make trade fair."
Bowles was an investment banker from a prominent family. His father, Hargrove "Skipper" Bowles was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1972 who lost in a Republican year but was still remembered fondly. His wife, Crandall Close, was CEO of Springs Industries, a large textile firm started by her family. Bowles, as Clinton's chief of staff, negotiated the 1997 budget package that led to a balanced budget; he had been trusted by Republican leaders when they seethed with mistrust of Clinton. But it didn't help Bowles that Blue and Marshall continued to hammer him on trade and that, because of a lawsuit against the Democratic legislature's state legislative redistricting plans, the primary was delayed from May to September 10.
Dole won the Republican primary with 80% of the vote; Bowles won the Democratic primary with 43% of the vote, to 29% for Blue and 15% for Marshall. Blue had hard feelings and did not endorse Bowles until mid-October. This was a heavy-spending race. Dole raised and spent more than $11 million, Bowles spent nearly as much; he put in $2.9 million of his money before October 15 and then another $3.6 million. Some of the ads got personal. A Dole ad criticized his wife for laying off workers in North Carolina and creating new jobs in Mexico and China; Bowles responded in an angry face-on ad and ran an ad showing racecar driver Junior Johnson saying he wouldn't let the Republicans "run Erskine Bowles into the wall." George W. Bush came in three times for Dole and Dick Cheney twice; Bill Clinton, who promised Blue he would stay neutral in the primary, helped Bowles raise money but stayed out of a state he never carried. One debate was videotaped behind locked doors in accordance with the candidates' demands. Bowles attacked Dole on trade and Social Security. She stood her ground on both issues, arguing for free trade and promoting her Dole plan for Social Security: she would hold up papers with her plan written out and then say she would show Bowles's plan--and hold up a blank sheet of paper. Bowles attacked Dole for opposing Clinton's family leave law when she was Secretary of Labor and for opposing a 1990 civil rights law; she replied that she thought the family leave measure had worked out all right and the civil rights bill was a quota bill. Dole ads often mentioned Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton; Bowles's ads avoided mentions of the Clintons. The late surge of Bowles's spending enabled him to close the gap in the polls, but this seems mostly to have been a matter of the coalescence of the usual party constituencies.
On Election Day the VNS exit poll, widely leaked, showed Bowles ahead; Bob Dole was glum and kept the news from his wife. But VNS, realizing its data were faulty, did not publicly release the numbers, and as the returns came in it quickly became apparent that Dole had won. She led 54%-45% statewide, just shy of Bush's 56%-43% lead in 2000. She carried two of the three big metro areas by wide margins--Charlotte (57%-42%) and Greensboro-Winston Salem--and finished just behind Bowles in Raleigh-Durham (49%-50%), where the Democratic margins in Durham and Chapel Hill are balanced by the Republican margins in much faster-growing areas in Wake County like Cary. In the other half of the state, Dole led 54%-46%. West of Raleigh-Durham, Dole carried all but a few mountain and sand hill counties. She carried the central part of eastern North Carolina but lost in heavily black counties to the north and south.
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