07/30/04 — Democrats turn out to rally for Bowles

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Democrats turn out to rally for Bowles

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 30, 2004 2:02 PM

U.S. Senate candidate Erskine Bowles and former Gov. Jim Hunt rallied with Wayne County Democrats Thursday night at Wilber's Barbecue Restaurant.

Bowles hopes to replace Sen. John Edwards and is on a "North Carolina First" bus tour. He faces U.S. Rep. Richard Burr, a Republican, in the November election.

"Erskine, Erskine," chanted more than 200 Democrats who had piled into the dining room and spilled into the entrance to the restaurant as the visitors arrived.

Hunt told the crowd there is no better person to build the economy. He said Bowles will be careful with the taxpayers' money because he is careful with his own. "And he's good at it."

The country had a balanced budget for the first time in years when Bowles was the chief of staff in the Clinton White House.

Hunt said he went to Washington and asked for help when Hurricane Floyd devastated eastern North Carolina in 1999.

"They told us, 'You're too late. Come back next year.' Where do you think was the first place I went after that? I went to the White House to see Erskine Bowles, and he got us $4 billion for eastern North Carolina. He knows how to work that place ...

"He knows highway 70 has too many stop lights, and we need a new one," said Hunt, adding that Bowles was the one who gathered all the Senate Democrat votes for the tobacco buy-out program.

After Hunt's introduction, Bowles said, "You're looking at a pumped up, jacked up candidate, because we're going to win. Wilber Shirley was for me when I was 42 points down, and he's still for me today," he said of the Goldsboro restaurateur and Democratic activist. "... We've got a big lead in the polls. We had 450 people in New Bern last night. You can feel the excitement and energy. They want someone real."

Bowles stressed the importance of voter turn-out in the November election. He said he feels it's the most important election his lifetime.

He said he's been meeting people like "Pam and Dave in Spindale," who lost their jobs after 20 years when their plant closed. Neither qualifies as "unemployed." The couple has dropped from a combined income of $63,000 to "out of work" and underemployed. Pam has given up, and Dave is working in retail for $14,000 a year. Bowles said.

He said there's a job plan that can make a difference for people like them.

Something has to be done for the small businesses, where most of the jobs are created, he said. Farmers need help, and the Senate's tobacco buy-out program will kick $6 billion back into the economy of North Carolina. "This buy-out program is critical to the people of North Carolina," he said.

People need help with their health care insurance, said Bowles. "We can negotiate to bring down the market price of prescription drugs," he said.

He said it's important to keep the military bases in North Carolina open. "Seymour Johnson is an extraordinarily valuable base," he said. "We need somebody who will stand up for Seymour Johnson and keep this base here."