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Former Durham City Council member and Democrat Cynthia Brown, Republican Lumberton radiologist Jim Parker and Republican Rowan County insurance agent Doug Sellers have announced their candidacies. They have joined a race that includes such political heavyweights as former Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Reasons for Running

UNC political science Professor Thad Beyle said he thinks several of the candidates who lack name recognition are running because they feel they can preserve the conservative attitudes of Jesse Helms.

He added that some people run because they feel Dole cannot adequately uphold the will of North Carolina's people. But Beyle said he thinks some unknown candidates might find it difficult finding money or support.

"The way campaigns are run, you have to have a lot of money to buy media time," he said. "These people could very well be in the race for a long time and then realize they have no attraction outside of their home area."

But several of the candidates say they are running because they believe the issues they stand for are important.

Cynthia Brown

Brown has local political experience from serving on the Durham City Council from November 1995 to December 1999.

Brown spokesman Ken McDouall said her campaign is dependent on volunteers and other grassroots measures. McDouall added that he expects the use of volunteers will help the campaign save money.

He said that if Brown is not dependent on money from political lobbyists, she can focus more effectively on the needs of the people. "I think her feeling was that ordinary people were shut out of the political process," he said. "She wants to put the people back in the middle of the political process."

Jim Parker

Parker never before has held public office. Instead, he served as a doctor in the military for eight years.

"I'm not running to further my political career because I don't have a political career," he said. "We should send a senator from North Carolina to Washington rather than have a representative from Washington come to North Carolina -- someone who is truly invested in North Carolina."

Parker said he hopes his platform will attract conservatives in the Republican party who supported Helms for more than 20 years. He added that he will focus on health issues, lower taxes and the preservation of individual rights.

Parker said his disappointment in the other Republican candidates pushed him toward his decision to enter the race.

"I felt that the candidates that announced they were running were not reflective of the people in this state," he said.

Douglas Sellers

Sellers said he wants to put education first in his campaign.

"I'm representing the small guy, and I want better education," he said. "The only way to get better education is to get better teachers and more funding."

Sellers said he is against subsidizing tobacco farmers at the expense of N.C. students. "Tobacco is a very big part of this state's infrastructure," he said. "But tobacco is a product that sells itself."

Sellers also said he supports a state lottery if the money goes toward education and helping impoverished people.

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Sellers is running a relatively small campaign, printing out press releases and banners himself and taking an active role in the development of his Web site. "It's not going to be about the big money at some point in time," he said. "People either like you or they don't."

Impact on the Campaign

Despite these candidates' ambitions, Beyle said the relatively unknown candidates "are just going to fragment some of the vote away from the major candidates."

In North Carolina, if the leading candidate does not receive more than 40 percent of the vote, the runner-up can challenge the winner to a second primary.

Beyle added that he thinks one of the main reasons a plethora of candidates has come forth is because of the lack of an incumbent running. "We haven't had an open seat in 30 years," he said. "Senate seats don't come open that often."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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