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North Carolina
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North Carolina Senate

Filing Deadline: Feb 2
Primary: May 5

Nov. 4, 1998 — Democratic attorney John Edwards claimed a key Republican Senate seat, defeating GOP incumbent Lauch Faircloth. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Edwards claimed 51 percent of the vote to Faircloth's 47 percent.

Issues: Faircloth took hits from outside organizations on several fronts. While the League of Conservation Voters included him on its annual "Dirty Dozen" list of lawmakers for his environmental voting record, Edwards picked up the Sierra Club's endorsement. Interest groups including Public Citizen called on Faircloth to support the campaign finance overhaul. Meanwhile, Edwards refused to accept money from political action committees and slammed Faircloth for taking $2.5 million from PACs.

Advertising: Faircloth began attacking Edwards even before the primary and continued throughout the summer and fall. He mostly accused lawyers like Edwards of driving up health insurance and medical costs. The anti-lawyer theme pervaded Faircloth's ads, which also said Edwards had "a lawyer's habit of stretching the truth." As it turns out, Faircloth and his businesses filed hundreds of their own lawsuits since the 1950s.

Edwards's TV ads began by focusing on his childhood, health care and crime, then became attack ads after Faircloth refused to debate. A state Democratic Party spot accused Faircloth of trying to cut Medicare and slammed his Senate attendance record and accused him of trying to cut Medicare. Actually, Faircloth has been absent only three percent of the time.

Fund-raising: It's no surprise that a race in which both candidates have personal fortunes greater than $10 million is this year's third most expensive Senate contest. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Faircloth raised nearly $7.8 million and spent $6.8 million by Oct. 14, and still had $966,671 on hand. Edwards raised $6.7 million and spent $6.4 million, and had $267,004 on hand.

Polls: A Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research poll conducted Oct. 11-13 showed a statistical dead heat: In a survey with a 3.5 percent margin of error, Faircloth took 45 percent and Edwards took 43 percent. Twelve percent were undecided. But polls in the Old North State typically understate support for the Republican candidate. Less than a month before Faircloth ousted ailing Democratic Sen. Terry Sanford in 1992, the Republican trailed in the polls by 14 points.

— Ryan Thornburg, washingtonpost.com

Ryan Thornburg can be reached at ryan.thornburg@washingtonpost.com

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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