Before Grier Martin dropped out today, I was 100% behind Grier. When I first met Jim Neal last week, I was obviously skeptical (and he wasn't on my ActBlue page) - so you can assume the following snippet from my Monday diary comes with more veracity than the usual bloviating in political puff pieces:
I was among the first visitors to the Neal party around 3:30. For a campaign's first semi-public event, I was impressed by the preparation, effort, and visible staff. I was still in my canvassing clothes ... but that didn't bother Jim, who was out of his coat by the night's end and made sure I did the same.
At first, politics wasn't the topic as much as the important things in life: family, education, and ACC basketball. But as the day went on and guests came in, it became apparent that Jim's heart, soul, and tone were in touch with my kind of Democratic politics.
Jim: This general election shouldn't be hard since it's an open seat - you have to live in the state to run for Senate, right?
Note: I'm paraphrasing a little.
Neal welcomed a primary challenge should it materialize, and had nothing but good things to say about Grier. Obviously, I want to see more from the Neal campaign, and they're going to have a tough time getting my vote if a Wildcat (Grier and I both went to Davidson College - Ed.) is in the race, but Jim knew how to make one hell of a first impression. I hope one truth doesn't scare you: Jim could win the general and the primary.
I'm still impressed with Jim, and I think he's got the sort of political ability - akin to what Fenno calls "homestyle" - that, perhaps, some of the other potential U.S. Senate candidates in our state lacked. I think Jim's going to go to Eastern North Carolina - where most of our undecided voters usually are - and press the flesh with the best of 'em.
Jim's not a placeholder candidate. He's bringing a lot of energy to the table, he's already assembled a great staff, and he's already on the attack:
Democratic Challenger Says Senator May Have ‘Another Chance to Get it Right’
(CHAPEL HILL) — Democrat Jim Neal, a businessman and investment banker running for the U.S. Senate, today said his opponent may have "another chance to get it right’ if a bi-partisan measure to provide health care coverage to more than four million uninsured children of working parents is brought back up in the Senate, where it passed by more than a two-thirds margin late last month before being vetoed by President George W. Bush.
"Senator Dole may have another chance to get it right," Neal said. "And if she won’t support providing health insurance to eligible North Carolina kids, she should at least give up the health insurance their taxpaying parents provide for her."
Dole was one of only 29 Senators who voted against the bi-partisan State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming majorities. The President vetoed the bill last week, triggering the likelihood that it will be brought back up again for an override vote.
I think that what Jim told me about how he would have handled a potential primary shows that he is the kind of "man of character" that the political process needs. He grew up middle-class in North Carolina, went to UNC, was successful in the world of business, helped out my friend and mentor Erskine Bowles when he ran for Senate, helped raise money for Wes Clark, and built a new business in Chapel Hill. He's also a man of faith and service:
Neal has served his community as an overnight volunteer at a homeless shelter, a lay minister to mentally ill residents of an assisted-care facility, and a sponsor of a post-war Vietnamese refugee family in alliance with the International Rescue Committee.
I'm really exited about this campaign, and I hope you are too. Now that the field is cleared, I'm equally excited to add Jim to my ActBlue page and ask for a modest (or huge) contribution. Early money is like yeast, and while Jim has the fundraising connections to build the war chest to take on Dole, there's always the chance, albeit small, that a huge fourth quarter report would scare Dole's dilapidated dog and pony show away from the race.
Many of my friends have vouched for Jim, and now I'm happy to vouch for him too. Before we had a Senate candidate in NC, I raised $1500 in one day for Al Franken over ActBlue (and countless more through his website). I think we can beat that. Help us bring a new dawn, a new direction, and a new Democratic Senator to Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Concord, Wilmington, Asheville, Rocky Mount, Greenville, Davidson, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Snow Hill, Boone, Montreat, Elizabeth City, Sanford, Biscoe, the Outer Banks, Highlands, and everywhere else in North Carolina. Jim Neal is the real deal for the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Jim Neal for Senate
Sam Spencer's ActBlue for Jim Neal
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