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Kate Tuttle

The turbulent political life of Harvey Gantt has made him the most visible symbol of race-baiting in American politics in the 1990s. Gantt, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, became Clemson University's first African American student in 1963. He later cofounded a private architectural firm, Gantt Huberman, and served as mayor of Charlotte from 1983 until 1987. He has also taught at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Clemson.

Race became a major issue in Gantt's two campaigns to unseat North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican. Following narrow electoral losses to Helms in 1990 and 1996, Gantt, his supporters, and the media all cited Helms's use of racially inflammatory political advertising.

One Helms television ad, which implied that Gantt supported race-based hiring quotas, played on white voters' fears that Affirmative Action could cost them their jobs ...