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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Campaigns have grown more expensive and media-reliant

Campaigning has grown expensive, Holshouser explains. He laments the decline of personal politics that has accompanied this growth, and the intrusion of television, with its negative ads.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. 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

JACK FLEER:
And I suppose in a sense the magnitude of the entire campaign finance situation has changed so much since you ran.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
There is no question about that. When I ran for the legislature the last time, I had run three times before, I had a primary twice, well the last time I had a primary. So I had had two primaries and four general elections, was unopposed in two primaries, was unopposed in one general election. Only in that last race, that last year, did I spend more than the filing fee plus gas money and maybe about $50.00. The first campaign I got some little cards that I took around to put in country stores and filling stations and that was the one thing that I spent other than my filing fee and gas money. Just driving, I say gas money, my gas money driving around. I had the father of a former girl friend give me $25.00 and that was the one contribution that I go and that was sort of how the campaign was.
JACK FLEER:
But as we know from the research and the publicity now we are talking about campaigns for the legislature that are hundred of thousands of dollars.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Our state senate campaign, two campaigns ago, at least one of the candidates spent about $175,000. In urban campaigns it is almost a given that you are going to have to raise that much money and I think in the Wake County races they raised close to $300,000. Of course what that does is that it lets them put a fair amount of advertising out on television or do a lot of direct mail. I personally have a lot of mixed emotions about the change that's happened. I always believe that campaigns have the ability to help the officer holder by getting out and listening to people. At the same time North Carolina has got a lot more people today than it had when I ran. If I saw and met a thousand people a day that's still only 350,000 people approximately in a year.
JACK FLEER:
That's a lot of people in a day.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
That is right and to do that every day. When you are just meeting them that is not really doing much more than letting them see you. You can reach them a lot more over the tube and it is with a lot less effort. There is not question about that. But I am not sure that you can adequately reach enough people on a personal way today without spending the money for television to get your ideas across.
JACK FLEER:
And of course that is one of the major factors in the cost of campaigning today. The magnitude is a least in part a matter of inflation and is at least in part of matter of a greater variety of instruments for campaigning. But the major part is the television coverage.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
And it is a catch 22 every way you turn it. The public you see all the polls. We all know intellectually that you shouldn't be able to buy an election by television. You shouldn't be able to win a campaign by smearing the other guy. The public says they are not going to vote for people who run negative ads but the history, you can look at a poll and you can see your percentage here, and you can run negative ads for three weeks and you will see your percentage going up. It just says the polls they don't lie; just in a vacuum have a feeling but when they get in the middle of it they do it anyway.