Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt continues his strong bid in North Carolina to unseat U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, according to a poll conducted this week.
The poll indicated that Mr. Helms, a Republican, was statistically tied with his Democratic challenger: Mr. Helms' support rating of percent, compared with 45 percent for Mr. Gantt, was within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
In a year when few incumbent senators appear in danger of defeat, the ultraconservative Mr. Helms appears to be the most vulnerable.
In a similar poll taken in June, just after his well-publicized victory in the Democratic primary, Mr. Gantt led Mr. Helms by 4 percentage points, but that lead also was within the poll's margin of error.
This week's poll of 401 North Carolinians who said they were likely to vote in the November general election was performed by KPC Research of Charlotte, N.C., which also conducts polls for The Sun.
Thirty percent of North Carolinians who participated in the poll listed education as the most important issue in the contest. Management of the federal budget and the economy were cited as most important by 15 percent of the sample. Abortion ranked as third most important. Mr. Helms opposes abortion
under any circumstances. Mr. Gantt says abortion should be available.
If race is an issue in the contest between Mr. Gantt, who is black, and Mr. Helms, who is white, its impact was difficult to assess, according to Joe Denneny, an official at KPC. The importance of black voters to Mr. Gantt, however, is clear, he said. About 90 percent of black voters said they would vote for Mr. Gantt, while 35 percent of whites were Gantt supporters.