Much attention will be paid in the next few days to the State of North Carolina. For much of the last month it has been regarded as a dead heat in the presidential race; the Senate seat has been seen as a possible turnover to the Democrats and the 8th district could also fall.
North Carolina has emerged as one of the country's leading growth states. It has a population of 8.85 million people, increasing by almost 50% in just 25 years. The old industries of textiles and tobacco have given way to high-tech research - particularly into pharmaceuticals (GlaxoSmithKline has its headquarters in the state); semiconductors; photonics; nanotechnology and security technology. Banking has also made North Carolina its home - though Wachovia has had a difficult time and has now been taken over by San Francisco based Wells Fargo.
Incumbent Senator, Elizabeth Dole is fighting to keep the senate seat she won in 2002. She is the wife of former Senator Bob Dole, but has been a formidable political figure in her own right. During her career she has served on the Federal Trade Commission; was sat in the cabinets of two Presidents (Secretary of Transportation under President Reagan and Secretary of Labor under the senior President Bush). She ran for President herself, but withdrew a year before George W Bush won for the Republicans. Her campaign website can be found at http://www.elizabethdole.org/
The Democrats chose Kay Hagan, niece of former Governor and Senator Lawton Chiles. She is a state Senator who was once a vice president of NCNB (now Bank of America), then North Carolina’s largest bank. Her website is http://www.kayhagan.com/home
The Eighth District is currently held by Robin Hayes, a multimillionaire who won in 2006 by just 329 votes. He has served in Congress since his first election in 1998. Hayes is a hunting and fishing enthusiast - who once part-owned a NASCAR racing team, another of his passions. His family business specialises in textiles. The campaign website is http://www.robinhayes.com/
Larry Kissell was the challenger who came so close to unseating Hayes in 2006. A High School Teacher by background, Kissell hopes that he came be second time lucky. His website is http://www.larrykissell.com/
The newspapers of North Carolina can be accessed via http://www.50states.com/news/ncarolin.htm. This is a state to watch with close interest on Election Day.