Under the Dome

Andy Griffith, Democrats' go-to grandfather

Former Dome-meister Ryan Teague Beckwith reminds us to highlight Andy Griffith's political involvement.  Here's part of the profile of Griffith that Ryan and Rob Christensen wrote, which called the actor "the spiritual godfather of the North Carolina Democratic Party."

Over the years, Griffith was active in Democratic politics, especially for former Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley and former Senate leader Marc Basnight.

In 1977, Griffith hosted an inauguration festival for the newly elected Hunt. In 1984, he stumped for Hunt Down East and taped political ads for the governor's unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Jessie Helms.

A number of Democrats tried to recruit Griffith to challenge Helms in 1990, even going as far as printing "Run Andy Run" bumper stickers. Despite the lobbying effort, Griffith never seriously considered running.

In 1996, he appeared at a Chapel Hill golf tournament fundraiser, helping Hunt collect a record $1.6 million for his re-election bid.

In 1998, Griffith taped radio ads touting the Democrats as pro-education that aired on behalf of Sens. Allen Wellons of Johnston County and Howard Lee and Ellie Kinnaird of Orange County.

In March of 2001, he appeared at a two-hour tribute to former Gov. Hunt that benefited an educational foundation.

In 2002, a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 52 near his boyhood home in Mt. Airy was renamed for Griffith.

In 2005, Griffith was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation's highest civilian honors, by President George W. Bush. He's also received the Order of the Longleaf Pine and the North Carolina Award the state's highest honors.

The Mayberry Miracle

In 2000, then-Attorney General Easley, previously the front-runner in the gubernatorial race against Richard Vinroot, saw his lead evaporate in the final weeks of the campaign. With the help of Senate leader Basnight, Easley tapped Griffith for several last-minute television ads filmed on the front porch of the Manteo home of his older brother, St. Clair Basnight.

Democrats credited the ad with turning the tide for Easley, especially in Eastern North Carolina, dubbing it "The Mayberry Miracle," Easley strategist Mac McCorkle said that Griffith helped negate the effect of the presidential election.

Still, Vinroot disputed its effectiveness, saying everyone looks for "some simple explanation."

That same year, Griffith taped radio commercials for Democratic Sens. John Kerr of Goldsboro, Tony Rand of Fayetteville and Fountain Odom of Charlotte that ran on small Christian radio stations in the hotly contested conservative districts.

Griffith appeared in another last-minute ad for Easley in 2005, leading Republican candidate Patrick Ballantine to complain that he was a "liberal actor who played a conservative sheriff."

In appreciation for his help, Easley had Griffith give the state toast at his 2001 inauguration and read a poem at his 2005 inauguration.

2008 Campaign

In April of 2008, Griffith appeared in an ad for Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who was running against state Treasurer Richard Moore for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. "Oh, you're going to be a goooood governor," he told Perdue in the ad.

After Perdue won the nomination, her Republican opponent, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, complained about Griffith's frequent endorsements of state Democrats.

"There is one political reality in North Carolina, and that is every four years about a week or two before the gubernatorial election, Andy Griffith the actor recommends one of the candidates," he said at a June debate before the N.C. Bar Association.

He argued that "Sheriff Taylor" would have problems with the criminal justice system today.

A July survey by a Democratic polling firm showed that the plurality of likely voters thought the fictional sheriff would split his ticket between Perdue and Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

In October, Griffith starred in a web video with director Ron Howard, reprising their roles from "The Andy Griffith Show" to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

He also taped a radio ad endorsing state Senate candidate Kay Carroll.

In late October, the Perdue campaign aired a second TV ad starring Griffith and robocalled voters with a recording of his voice.

At Perdue's inauguration in January of 2009, Griffith read a poem written by his wife, Cindi.

In 2010, Griffith pitched President Obama's health care law in a 30- second ad aimed at older viewers.


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Great Actor

Andy will be sorely missed for his acting.  His politics- not so much.  I knew Andy had turned the corner on his senses when he did the commercial saying that the change in healthcare was a good thing for older people.  I guess no one noticed that he had plenty of money to get whatever treatments he needed and would never use the new system.

Andy and Morgan Freeman share the same qualities- unequalled actors, but not who I would turn to for political advice.

It is a sad day for North Carolina and the country with Andy's passing. 

Andy: Great Man, Good Democrat

Is it any surprise one of North Carolina's most beloved hometown heroes was a Democrat?

Andy was a great man and a great character. He will be sorely missed but never  forgotten.

Thanks Andy!

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