RALEIGH – Republican Giant and longtime Senator from North Carolina Jesse Helms still resonates in the politics of the Old North State and across the nation. As we approach the 45 year anniversary of Helms’ first election to Congress’ upper chamber, a former aide of his is sharing remarkable concession speeches that, fortunately, ‘Senator No’ never had to give.
From the News & Observer:
“On the afternoon of Nov. 7, 1972, Jesse Helms handed a young aide named Patrick Reilly the drafts of two typewritten speeches.
“I’m going to need one of these tonight,” Helms told Reilly. “Make sure I get the right one.”
Later that night, Reilly, then 20, slipped one of the drafts onto the podium at Raleigh’s Hilton Hotel and smiled as Helms addressed jubilant supporters.
“The people of North Carolina have today united in a great bipartisan effort to seek the restoration and preservation of their freedoms,” said the U.S. Senator-elect.
But Reilly kept the other draft, the concession speech.
He took it home to upstate New York and saved it through decades of successive moves. Last year he sent it to the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate. The center plans to release it this week, the 45th anniversary of Helms’ first election to the U.S. Senate.
The speech that Helms never gave would have changed the arc of American politics, the conservative movement and maybe even the presidency. It could have abruptly aborted a Senate career that went on to last for three decades. It was one that made him a pioneer of modern attack politics, invoking hot-button issues of race and homosexuality. He reached levels of international influence no North Carolinian had ever enjoyed.
“I accept the consequences of the people’s verdict with good cheer,” Helms was prepared to say. “I am grateful for the fact that I live in a land where I could try.””
Read the rest of the homage to the late Sen. Helms, here.