From the August issue of Black Enterprise:

Harvey Gantt has designs on making political history in North Carolina. On June 5, he ... became the first black nominated for a Senate seat by a state's Democratic party.

Now Gantt must face the juggernaut of southern conservatism, incumbent Jessie Helms, to become the first black elected senator from a southern state since Hiram R. Revels represented Mississippi during reconstruction. ...

Against Helms' 99 percent name recognition in North Carolina, Gantt's name weighs in at only 61 percent across the state, which is 22 percent black. Gantt has a lot of hands to shake ... according to early polls conducted by PGI, a Chapel Hill marketing and advertising firm. Helms' stronghold is in rural and heavily white eastern North Carolina, long considered to be the most conservative part of the state ... {But} voters there don't support a man just because he's white anymore. Onslow County, with less than 18 percent black registered voters, elected its first black county school board member in 1986. ...

However, Helms is also known to run a hard, dirty and effective campaign, and, like most incumbents, can raise the money to back it up. In 1984, Helms spent a record $21 million to barely defeat then-governor James Hunt in an intensely bitter and vitriolic campaign. ...

"He's a magic politician," observes Thad Beyle, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "He's able to say, 'The public may not agree with what I believe in, but they sure know where I stand.' "

With that in mind, "Gantt has to define Harvey Gantt before he's defined by his opponent," says Ken Eudy of PGI. "Whoever defines the campaign will win."