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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Choosing which office to run for

Agonizing over whether to run for governor or some other office, Holshouser printed out bumper stickers that did not specify what position he was seeking. He ultimately chose to try for the governorship, aiming to dismantle some of the rigid bureaucracy that had grown up around the office.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., March 13, 1998. Interview C-0328-2. 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:
Governor Holshouser, why did you want to be governor?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well it wasn't something that had been planned since childhood. As a matter of fact in my first session of the legislature, a lawyer by the name of Andy Jones drafted all of my bills that I put in and we got to be good friends and we talked a lot. He said one time, he said, "I don't know why anybody wants to be governor you lose about a friend a day because every time you make an appointment there were five other of your best friends that thought they were going to get it or whatever. And no matter who you pleased every time you make a decision you are displeasing somebody." As I kept going through the legislative process I kept getting sort of a hidden sense of frustration over not being able to get some things done that in some cases I thought were pretty common sense and in other cases I thought could never be done until you had sort of a major change, not like a paradigm change, but a dramatic change in how the person at the top and those around him viewed government. That the Democrat establishment had been in so long, there were so many people within the bureaucracy even at the near top levels who were just part of that establishment that you couldn't break the mold of how problems needed to be addressed. I don't think that was all to the Democrats as oppose to say the Republicans in Iowa or Ohio or some place where if any party that is in too long has the potential. And I got more and more frustrated with some of the approaches to spending and policy and just finally decided that I ought to try to do something about it. It is a very hard decision to make because I tend to always want, grew up playing cards close to the vest in terms of making decisions, of analyzing every which way I could, rather than just trying to make a snap judgment and it was very hard. The bumper strips that came out in October '71 just said Holshouser because I had some folks still trying to talk me into running for U.S. Senate or the possibility to running for Congress if Jim Broyhill ended up running for the Senate. So those bumper strips just came out with no office on them at all. Folks that were trying to help me knew we were going to run for something but they didn't know what. But I think that was the cautious side of me. The part where my heart was said that as opposed to Jim Holshouser political career which I never intended to have one that where I thought I could make a difference was in the governor's office. So even though we had never won in this century I was enough of an analytical about it to know that the election returns were getting closer all the time and you didn't know when that breakthrough was going to be. But it could happen just as easy in '72 as anytime.