Joe Herzenberg, strategist: all politics is local

I posted yesterday about Joe Herzenberg’s  passing. Last night I thought about some Joe Herzenberg tales. Here’s one!

Joe was long time Democratic precinct chair in Orange County’s East Franklin Precinct. Joe believed that all politics was local, and in 1974 decided to prove that endorsements from neighbors was crucial.  He had a meeting with a group in the precinct, coming up with a list of endorsements, that were typed on a sheet of paper, copied, and put at the door of every registered Democrat in the precinct two or three days before the election.

Careful attention was paid to making sure there was a signator from every corner of the precinct. Joe had a last minute thought. There were 10 Democrats on the US Senate primary ballot, the best known being former Congressman Nick Galifianakis and Attorney General Robert Morgan.  What about endorsing one of the other eight no one had heard of, just to see the results? Joe picked Henry Hall Wilson, Jr.  The Monroe native had been a congressional liason for JFK and LBJ, then in 1967 had gone to head the Chicago Board of Trade, then returned to North Carolina to run for the US Senate. He was largely unknown in Chapel Hill. I had never heard of him until the campaign. The entire Wilson campaign in the precinct came from the endorsement letter, word of which also got around town.

When the election returns came in, Wilson had garnered 11.5% of the vote statewide, a distant third with 67,247 votes. He carried his native Union with 4,465 votes, 62% of the total. In Orange County, he garnered 2,627 votes, 26%. In East Franklin, he pulled in 154 votes, 47% of the total. It was the only precinct in the state he carried outside of his home county.


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