Endorsements helped in 1998.
That year, endorsements helped then-unknown attorney John Edwards win a seven-person race.
In that race, Edwards was endorsed by the AFL-CIO, the N.C. Association of Educators, the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association, among others.
The endorsements from black groups were notable, since there were two African-American candidates in the primary as well.
Of course, as Rob Christensen pointed out in a May 11, 1998, column, it also helped that Edwards spent $3.2 million of his own money on his campaign, including extensive television ads.