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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 continues to emphasize positive campaigning in an excerpt that reveals his unity-oriented political philosophy. He thinks that James B. Hunt's appearance in televised attack ads against Jesse Helms hurt Hunt's image, and Sanford refused to take the same risk.

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

Had you been running against a more free swinging candidate, let's say that Funderburk defeated Broyhill, I don't know, how would you handle that?
Well, I think that our campaign would have looked even better against him. We would have let him run that stuff. We didn't answer the last month's campaigns that attempted to say that I was the kind of big spending liberal and ended up with a picture, a distorted picture, of three people—one of whom was me; one of whom, as I recall, was a caricature of Mondale, and the other a caricature of Kennedy. In fact, it was so badly distorted that it became ridiculous and therefore funny and therefore, I'm sure, ineffective. In any event we didn't attempt to answer that, and we certainly didn't attempt to go back and hit him with people that he wouldn't want his name associated with. We certainly could have come up with a number of things of that kind if we had wanted to. But it would have been a mistake. It would have been a mistake in strategy. We weren't not doing it just because it was not the thing to do. It would have been a bad piece of strategy. There were a lot of reasons that I wanted to run a positive campaign that you could look at after it was over and say, that was a clean campaign. It was also a good strategy to do it that way, and it would have been a good strategy for Hunt. In fact, the only quarrel I had with—the biggest quarrel I had, that is, with my people—was that they didn't emphasize my positive record enough. I felt that we ought to hit hard on the things I had done for the state, to really get the emphasis on the community college contribution which was substantial. It's the best answer in the world to the sales tax. Now, granted most of the sales tax, the new sales tax money, really didn't go for community colleges. It went for teachers' salaries, it went for libraries. But finding the tangible evidence of that for a thirty-seven second spot on even for a theme is much more difficult.
You were saying that one major difference was the type of people, the type of team, that you assembled as opposed as to let's say, how the Hunt campaign was run.
No, it was virtually the same type of people. It wasn't the in-state people and the campaign manager and the people that got up money and the people organized to get out the vote. It was the outside consultants, really the television people, because, see, the campaign other than television was a superb campaign. The television campaign, ultimately, did him in, both the Helmes side and, in my opinion, to a considerable extent his own side because it took away from him—the bright, young, clean-cut Governor. It made him in the eyes of too many voters just another person like Helms, slapping out at the opposing candidate. He shouldn't have been on any of those spots when they felt it necessary to take on Helms. It should have been somebody else, not him.
That taunt, "Where do you stand, Jim?" just kept coming back and back.
Yeah. Well, you know he just kept on the attack of Helms, and that's what they were advising him to do. When I would tell him, he would say, you know, with complete perplexity, but "This is what they're telling me I have to do," and they'd point out that back in the spring when he didn't do that he got behind. Well, I think that probably was not the reason he was getting behind. He was getting behind because of the big push Helms was putting on. In my opinion we could have left that alone as we did during the summer for Broyhill. They made that thrust, and then they had shot a good deal of their ammunition. When we came back, that had dwindled in influence. Anyhow, it's awfully easy to hold a post-mortem, and had I lost, people would be saying everything I did was wrong. It may be that he simply got beat because Reagan was on the ticket. Nonetheless, I thought that the campaign could have been improved, and consequently I was making certain that I didn't do the same thing.