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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 16 and 18, 1986. Interview C-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A Democratic loss convinces Sanford to run a positive campaign

Sanford traces the impacts of former governor and Democrat James B. Hunt's loss to Republican Jesse Helms in the 1984 senatorial elections in this excerpt. The loss influenced his own decision to run for Senate in 1986, especially his relationship with his campaign advisers. He disagreed with Hunt's advisers' strategy of attacking Helms rather than emphasizing Hunt's record as governor, and in his own campaign against Jim Broyhill he tried to stay positive.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 16 and 18, 1986. Interview C-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BRENT GLASS:
The first question I had was, "In your mind what was, did the election in '84 have any influence on your thinking and how you prepared for both the primary and the general election?"
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, I think if the '84 election had been successful, I probably would have had less problems if indeed I had ended up being the candidate. I might also have had less incentive for running and would have ended up having somebody else to support. Certainly the Party would not have been in a divided condition. Certainly the danger of continuing division would not have been as deadly a threat as it turned out that it was. So the very fact that we lost that election had a fundamental effect on my campaign, or whether or not, indeed, there really would have been a campaign. I suppose that I didn't think about running until sometime after that campaign. That would have been in the fall of '84. So the spring of '85 as I was leaving Duke, certainly was the first time that it began to cross my mind that it might be something that I might want to try to do, maybe.
BRENT GLASS:
Not only the outcome but the conduct of the campaign, did that have an influence on you? Thinking, to run, not to run, or how you would conduct your campaign?
TERRY SANFORD:
I hadn't any question about how I would run the campaign. I had had some difference of opinion with the managers of the Hunt campaign. When I would talk to Jim Hunt about it, he certainly seemed to be inclined to be in agreement with me but stymied by the fact that all of this expert advice and these pollsters and people that are supposed to know were telling him that he had to do it a different way. I suppose he would now be the first to say, as he later advised me, "Don't let those people, that is experts, run your campaign." Well, I learned that but I think that I already knew it.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of advice would they give you?
TERRY SANFORD:
I never had operated with that kind of a battery of experts but I had pretty well made up my mind from having seen them in several campaigns. You just didn't do that when I ran for governor. You had an advertising agency. We had a pollster. We put it together, and we made the decision of what kind of a campaign to conduct and how to develop the issues. I felt the candidate always has ultimately to do that. Now, I don't think the candidate runs his own campaign because he can't. I think he has to call the shots and set the style and certainly decide how it's going to be run, especially in terms of issues. So I had observed all of that, and I don't know that had I observed it or not that I would have run any different campaign. Obviously, I, having been through that—the people of the state having been through it made it all the more imperative that I run the kind of campaign that I did. At least I thought so, and I suppose, coming out the way it did, I have to conclude I must have been not wrong. Maybe they…
BRENT GLASS:
Well, what would be the contrast?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, the contrast of course was that they constantly went after Helms. That was the advice he was getting—absolutely contrary to the advice that I wanted them to take— but that they had to go after him. I felt they needed to build up Hunt's own spendid record as Governor, that they emphasize that and ignore to a considerable extent Helms. Now I don't mean ignore him totally. I think some of my people during the summer misunderstood my concept. I didn't think you ought to totally ignore them. You couldn't. Neither could you let them dominate your campaign and set the style of the total campaign, and set the agenda of issues. I think anytime you can seize the initiative, you're better off. So they were responding in kind. I was determined that we would not respond in kind, and we didn't. I don't mean to rehash the campaign but the negative elements of the campaign in my judgment, in my biased view, were all on the Broyhill side. I don't think we did anything that could be called negative. We didn't fail to run some comparative ads. We didn't attempt to take a little piece of his record and twist it, or at least I hope not. We certainly weren't responding in kind and weren't letting him set the agenda. Again, I hope that's true. I'm fully cognizant of the tendency to overlook your own flaws and not the opponents.