The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 28th

Pundits: Blue Could Fare Well in Election

Dan Blue, a former speaker for the N.C. House, joins Elaine Marshall in the race for the Democratic ticket.

Blue, a North Carolina native with degrees from N.C. Central and and Duke universities, served as . speaker of the N.C. House in the early 1990s, only to be ousted as majority leader after the Republican sweep of the N.C. General Assembly in 1994.

Blue is the fourth candidate to announce his bid for the U.S. Senate seat, following announcements by Democrat Elaine Marshall and Republicans Ada Fisher and Richard Vinroot.

Blue has gone against the wishes of the Democratic Party leadership on several occasions, including leading a group of eight dissident Democrats in splitting from the party line on the issue of a proposed one-cent sales tax increase. The "Group of Eight" has delayed attempts of House Democrats to pass a tax package.

In 1998 Blue also attempted to build a coalition of Republicans and black Democrats to capture the post of House Speaker.

Democratic Party members are hesitant to say if Blue's recent actions will damage his Senate campaign.

"I think that will depend on how the current session ends," said Barbara Allen, head of the N.C. Democratic Party.

"He has been in the legislature for 11 terms," she said. "He's been a very effective legislator during his time."

Ferrel Guillory, director of UNC-Chapel Hill's Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life, said Blue is a strong candidate with a mix of potential strengths and weaknesses.

Guillory added that Blue's recent actions in the legislature will not adversely affect public perception of him.

"As a general rule, infighting in the General Assembly doesn't matter past the brass doors of the legislature," he said. "And if Blue wins the primaries, the party will rally around him."

Guillory said Blue, a native of rural North Carolina, is an intelligent man who took advantage of opportunities for higher education. "In many ways he's a quintessential North Carolina success story."

Both Allen and Guillory said Blue, despite never having been on the ballot in a statewide campaign, has the necessary qualities to compete with the other Democratic candidates.

"Through being speaker of the House, Blue has had experience dealing with the major corporate political figures of the state," Guillory said.

But Republican Party head Bill Cobey said he feels that Blue's inexperience in running a statewide campaign might hinder his chances. "It takes a lot of money to run a statewide campaign," Cobey said.

But Guillory said if Blue can win the Democratic primary, campaign financing for the general election won't be a serious issue.

"Everyone's vying for Jesse Helms' seat," Guillory said. "Both the Democrat and Republican parties are going to make sure that their candidates have the finances to run an effective campaign."

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