Former Prof. Running for Senate

Medical School's Sanders Challenges Helms in North Carolina Race

Charles A. Sanders, a former Harvard Medical School Professor and director of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is set to challenge four-term incumbent Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in the 1996 North Carolina Senatorial race.

"I'm not very happy with the way this country is being run right now," Sanders said in a telephone interview Monday. "I began to explore this race early in 1994 because I've always been interested in public service and this is a way of getting involved."

Sanders left MGH in 1981 and Harvard in 1983, moving to North Carolina in 1989 to become the chief executive at Glaxo, Inc., a pharmaceutical manufacturer and the largest company headquartered in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.

Sanders was named chair of Glaxo in 1992, and the company's overall sales were raised to $3.5 billion from $1.5 billion in the four and a half years Sanders was in charge.

Sanders, 63, said his background in both the academic and corporate worlds will give him the insight necessary to perform well in government.


"It is very appropriate to have a citizen politician which is what our forefathers envisioned as opposed to having [the government] run by career politicians," Sanders said.

Sanders identified education and health care as two issues which stand at the top of his political agenda.

"There's no magic list," Sanders said. "Everyone pretty much agrees on the problems of crime, personal safety and substance abuse, but for North Carolina, specifically, I'm looking to improve education and health care."

Sanders will face several challenges in his bid for a Senate seat. Having lived in North Carolina for only six years, he will have difficulty claiming long-time allegiance to state issues, said Tom Drew, a Durham public relations consultant.

And a Democratic primary may be necessary for N.C. Senate candidates, as former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt and State Schools SuperintendentBob Etheridge are also preparing to challengeHelms for the Senate seat.

Gantt challenged Helms in the 1990 race, butonly captured 47 percent of the vote to Helms '53.

Sanders will also have to face scandal-houndsin his Senate bid. His 26-year-old son,Christopher, was arrested in June forcounterfeiting $3,720 in twenty-dollar bills fromhis home computer and scanner equipment in hisRaleigh, N.C. apartment.

Sanders and his wife Ann issued a statement ofconcern, saying, "Chris is an adult and must beresponsible for the actions, [but] as his motherand father, we will continue to love and supporthim."

Sanders still believes he has a solid chance towin the race, however., "My feeling is thatSenator Helms has been there for 24 years,"Sanders said. "He has control of 45 percent of thevote, and the Democrats have 45 percent of thevote, so you end up fighting over 10 percent ofthe vote [during the campaign]."

Sanders said he has a fighting chance to gaincontrol of that 10 percent based on his ability torepresent N.C. on important issues.

"I'm just very concerned about the politics ofdivision. We built this country on beinginclusive, but division is sort of the temper ofthe times," Sanders said. "I hope that rationalvoices will prevail and that I'll be one of them.