Helms visits county to rally support for Burr
By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on October 17, 2004 2:05 AM
Former Sen. Jesse Helms took center stage at a political rally Saturday in Wayne County, urging a crowd of several hundred to vote for Rep. Richard Burr.
A frail Helms had to be helped onto the stage. He told the gathering that it was possibly his last visit to Wayne. Helms will be 83 years old on Monday and has grown visibly weaker in recent years.
"I'll be honest with you," he told admirers. "This is a tear-jerk appearance, anticipating that I may not come back here. If not, I'll be with you in spirit."
Wayne County voted to send Helms to the U.S. Senate all five times he ran.
The rally was held at Harrell Overman's farm in Grantham.
Helms, accompanied by his wife, Dot, told the gathering of farmers and small business people that they were his "kind of folks."
"I know how hard you work," he said. "And let me know if there's any way I can be of help."
Helms said that it was a pleasure to speak on behalf of Burr, who is running against Democrat Erskine Bowles for the seat now held by Democrat John Edwards.
He praised both Burr and Sen. Elizabeth Dole, saying it would be refreshing to have two Republicans representing the state in the Senate.
Helms said that Burr was a "conservative and a fine Christian man."
"When he tells you something," Helms said, "it's the truth."
Burr said that he wouldn't be involved in politics if it hadn't been for the inspiration of helms. He said that Helms was always consistent in his views and stood his ground even if the vote was 99 to 1 against him.
"People (from other states) would ask me, how does he get re-elected?" Burr said. "And I told them it was because he believes what North Carolina believes."
Burr encouraged the crowd not to be swayed by negative advertisements but asked that his 10-year voting record in the House of Representatives be allowed to speak for itself.
"If that's what is in sync with what you believe, then I'm here to ask you for your vote," Burr said.
The issues in Washington are of such magnitude, he said, that it will be our children and grandchildren that will suffer, if "we get it wrong."
"Everything we're doing is about them," said Burr, who was accompanied by his wife, Brook. "It's not about us. We want to make sure we provide the same opportunity for our children."
When urging supporters to work for his election, Burr shared a recent conversation he'd had with his 17-year-old son.
"He asked me what I was going to do if I lost," Burr said.
So Burr replied that he would be home a lot more, would be able to help his son with homework and give him advice on healthy eating habits.
"Then I better start campaigning," his son said.
Burr said that there were a lot of people he couldn't meet personally, so he asked the crowd of supporters to help him touch as many voters as possible.
"I'm convinced our brightest days are ahead," he said.
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