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Dole, Bowles front-runners for Helms' seat | RALEIGH,, N.C. (UPI) -- Elizabeth Dole, briefly a candidate for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, are favored to win their party nominations on Tuesday for Jesse Helms' U.S. Senate seat.

Dole, 66, has raised $9 million, more than any other candidate. She faces six lesser-known opponents for the Republican nomination, led by Lexington attorney Jim Snyder.

Polls have shown that Bowles, a Charlotte investment banker, who has raised almost $6 million for his campaign, is ahead of state representative Dan Blue, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and six other Democratic opponents. Bowles was White House Chief of staff in 1996-98, during the Clinton administration.

The winners will face each other in November's general election to replace conservative Sen. Helms, a Republican, who has held his seat for three decades.

Helms, who has endorsed Dole, underwent heart surgery in April, forcing him to miss much of this year's congress.

Dole, who also has the endorsement of President Bush, is trying to prevent Democrats from branding her as a "carpetbagger" because she returned to North Carolina last year after 42 years of living elsewhere.

With the Army's Fort Bragg and the Marines' Camp Lejeune both located in North Carolina, Dole cites her experience as Transportation Secretary during the Reagan Administration, where she led one branch of the armed services, the Coast Guard.

Polls have shown Dole well ahead of Bowles. Democrats have had to resort to touting a poll that showed Dole ahead of Bowles by "only" 19 percentage points. The Democratic Party has predicted the margin will narrow because of the arrival of more than 1 million new residents in the state during the last 20 years.

Bowles has been credited with creating jobs during 1993-94, when he headed the Small Business Administration, but his opponents have criticized his role as a director of the VF Corp., which laid off 13,000 textile jobs last year. Bowles had resigned one month earlier to run for office.

North Carolina's primary election, originally scheduled for May 7, was delayed after the state Supreme Court struck down legislative districts approved last year, ruling that they violated the state's constitution. Johnston County Judge Knox V. Jenkins Jr. eventually drew new districts that were approved by the U.S. Justice Department in July.

State election officials have predicted "dismal" voter turnout.

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