The airplane David B. Funderburk chartered for a last-minute campaign tour couldn't get off the ground at Greensboro Monday. As it turned out, the same thing happened with Mr. Funderburk's campaign. He lost Tuesday in a 2-to-1 landslide to veteran congressman James T. Broyhill for the Republican nomination to become North Carolina's junior US senator. Mr. Broyhill will face former governor Terry Sanford in a race that is expected to go down to the wire.
Both parties are expected to pour heavy resources into the campaign leading up to the November election. The outcome will signal whether North Carolina Democrats are starting to make inroads into the Republican domination of the state's top offices in recent years (the governor and both US senators currently are Republicans). And the result also could be important in determining if the Republicans can retain the slim majority they now hold in the Senate.
This will be the first time since 1972 that the Republican candidate for Senate won't be Jesse Helms or one of his followers. The vacancy is being created by the retirement for health reasons of one of Senator Helms's cohorts, Sen. John P. East. Eager for one of their own to replace Mr. East, North Carolina conservatives tapped Funderburk, a social science professor at Campbell University and former US ambassador to Romania.
Broyhill, who represents North Carolina's 10th congressional district, went into the primary with solid support because of his long-standing ties to the Republican party and representation in an area that traditionally has been a GOP stronghold.
Funderburk targeted his campaign largely toward Christian fundamentalists and strict ideological conservatives -- those who have given Helms and East victories in the past.
The Republican primary turned into an unusually rancorous intra-party contest, with the candidates exchanging increasingly bitter charges. Observers now question whether the party's conservative and moderate wings can close ranks enough to defeat Mr. Sanford, who won 60 percent of the votes in a 10-candidate race for the Democratic nomination.
Broyhill says he looks forward to unifying the party. ``It will take a lot of hard work and good people getting the message out,'' he says. ``But it can be done.''
Broyhill notes much of his primary campaign was aimed at building support among Democrats. ``I have always prided myself on building a bipartisan coalition,'' he says. ``We have been running this campaign to appeal to independent voters.''
Funderburk has pledged to support Broyhill despite months of negative advertising calling into question the congressman's conservatism.
However, it is unknown if members of the National Congressional Club, a New-Right fund-raising organization that backed Funderburk, will have the heart to help Broyhill in the general election.
Both Senator Helms and Gov. James G. Martin, the leader of the party's moderate wing, remained publicly neutral in the primary. After the primary both men pledged their full support to Broyhill.