Former U.S. senator stumps for his wife
By Steve Huffman
Bob Dole spoke Thursday night in support of his wife, Elizabeth, and her bid for re-election to the Senate.
“She’s public enemy No. 1 as far as the Democrats are concerned,” Dole said, speaking to a gathering of 30 or so fellow Republicans at Elizabeth Dole State Headquarters on East Innes Street in Salisbury.
“They’re sending $10 million from Washington to defeat her.”
Dole, dressed in a dark suit and tie, shook hands with just about everyone in the building, then took time to have his picture taken with anyone interested.
He laughed and cracked jokes throughout.
Posing for a photograph between twins Brandon and Bryan Best, two Livingstone College volunteers working for Dr. Ada Fisher in her bid for a state senate seat, Dole quipped, “The average age here is 42.”
Moments later, introduced to Kedejia Washington, another student who’s working as an intern for the city of Salisbury, Dole asked, “She’s a lobbyist?”
Though she’s not, Dole continued the joke. He told Washington, “Say you’re an advocate. They like that. They don’t like lobbyists.”
But Dole turned serious when discussing his wife’s campaign against Democratic challenger Kay Hagan.
“I feel good about this race, but it’s a very close race,” he said. “They’re running lots of negative ads.”
Dole said that contrary to what the Hagan camp is saying about his wife, she’s one of the top 10 members of the senate, a woman, he said, who fights for her constituents.
Still, Dole said his wife needs all the help she can get in the election.
“What we really need is volunteers,” he said.
Dole said he ran for office 15 times in his home state of Kansas and won every race. “It was because of volunteers,” he said.
Dole said North Carolina could be the deciding state in this year’s presidential election and encouraged Republicans to get to the polls and take their neighbors.
He said that on average, only half of the nation’s residents cast a ballot during the presidential elections.
“This could be the state that decides the presidency,” Dole said. “It did in ’76 when I ran with Gerald Ford.”
Then Dole paused, remembering that the pair lost the election.
“So I didn’t get a car and driver,” Dole concluded, laughing.
Dole was introduced to a handful of local Republican candidates Thursday.
State Sen. Andrew Brock of Davie County shook hands with Dole, then told the former presidential candidate that Democrats have controlled the North Carolina Senate for 140 years.
Dole feigned surprise.
“Dang,” he said, “that ought to be enough.”
Rep. Fred Steen was also introduced to Dole. When asked who his competition was in this year’s race, Steen told Dole that no one was running against him.
“I don’t have any competition,” Steen quipped. “I do a good job.”
Jim Sides and Carl Ford, Republican candidates for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, flanked Dole for a photograph.
Dole thought there was only one seat open in the commission race, then seemed relieved when he discovered there are two vacancies.
“Good,” Dole said upon hearing the news, “I didn’t want to get in the middle of a wrestling match.”
Dole also mentioned Honor Flight, a program whereby World War II veterans such as himself are flown to Washington, D.C., to tour the World War II memorial there.The program is free for veterans, he said.
Dole said he recently received an award from a Rotary Club and the honor paid for 10 veterans to take advantage of Honor Flight.
Dole asked Thursday if there were other World War II veterans in attendance. Only one man raised his hand.
Dole said that’s more the norm than the exception as World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,400 per day.
“When you get to our age, you can tell all the war stories you want,” Dole joked. “There’s nobody around to dispute. We were all heroes. We all had one round left and 500 of the enemy coming at us.”
Then he laughed heartily.
Jace Thomas, 30, shook hands with Dole, telling him he was the first presidential candidate he voted for, doing so in 1996, shortly after he’d turned 18.
Dole thanked Thomas for his support.
“He’s very funny, very witty,” Thomas said of Dole. “It’s always enjoyable to hear older folks like him carry on like that.”