Many of those outside of North Carolina never could quite understand how Jesse Helms won reelection to the U.S. Senate so many times in what is considered a moderate southern state. It is no wonder many were baffled by Helms’ political success considering the caricature his opponents and many in the media so often painted of him. Those who knew Senator Helms had no trouble understanding his appeal to voters though. In eulogizing Helms this week, many of those closest to him described attributes he possessed that any politician would do well to follow, regardless of their political ideology.
Remember who you serve. Constituent service in Jesse Helms’ office was second to none. North Carolinians knew they could call on Helms’ office to get things done. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, if you needed help in North Carolina you called (or wrote) Jesse Helms’ office to get action. Not only did Helms provide incredible constituent service, but he was accessible as well, especially to young people. Jonathan Hill, who worked for Helms for many years beginning in 1983, said Helms told campaign staff that anytime a young person came to his office and wanted a picture with him that they were to come “get him.” Hill said Helms always made time for constituents visiting the Senate – especially groups of young people. Politicians always seem to find time for the big donors, but not all are as generous with their time for the fifth grade class on a field trip
Treat others with respect. Not only did Helms make sure the constituents he worked for received prompt attention, but those who worked for him spoke about the kindness and consideration he showed to them as well. Hill spent many hours on the campaign trail with Helms and commented on the great love Helms had for his family, and particularly the loving way he treated his wife, Dot (“He put her on a pedestal.”). Those who worked for Helms said he treated his campaign staff as his family. Hill said he never heard Helms use profanity and that he always addressed those who worked for him, as well as all those who worked in the Senate and elsewhere, with courtesy. He said if you asked those who worked in the Senate, from campaign staff to elevator operators, who their favorite Senator was, most would say Jesse Helms.
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