"It is God-fearing, gun-owning, lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key, military-loving state. And race feelings, while diminished, are still a powerful force. It is a state that loves NASCAR, pick-up trucks and plainspoken politicians who don't put on too many airs."In the epilogue to his new book, "The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics," Rob Christensen responds to the question of "how the same state could elect both a rock-ribbed conservative like Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate five times and a progressive like Jim Hunt as governor four times."The short answer, Christensen explains, "is that North Carolina is a closely divided state."There is a longer answer, one that is more complex, more interesting and, as told by Christensen, a rich saga of the conflict of ideas and strong personalities.To explain the Jesse Helms-Jim Hunt paradox, Christensen goes back more than 100 years to show that their different political movements originate from the same source. That common beginning was the political revolution led by Furnifold Simmons that ousted a multiracial Republican-Populist coalition from control of state government, disenfranchised blacks and led to the election in 1900 of Charles Brantley Aycock as governor. Simmons, a U.S. senator from 1901 to 1931, led a Democratic party "machine" that controlled state government during those years. Aycock, while supporting disenfranchisement, also fought passionately to improve the educational opportunities for whites and blacks and served as an important model for future pro-education political leaders. His immediate successors, most often part of the Simmons group, pushed pro-business, "good government" and economic development programs.In 1928, O. Max Gardner won election as governor, beating the Simmons forces. Gardner led a new political dynasty (the Shelby Dynasty), one that built on the legacy of Aycock and Simmons and emphasized a business-like approach to government. The Shelby Dynasty controlled North Carolina government, off and on, through the governorship of Luther Hodges (1954-1961).However, in 1948, a populist adherent of Aycock's theme of education for all, Kerr Scott, beat the Shelby Dynasty's candidate for governor and briefly interrupted the pro-business tradition. Scott's appointment of UNC President Frank Graham to the U.S. Senate led to a cataclysmic election battle between Graham and Willis Smith that divided successors of Aycock on the issue of race. Supporters of Smith, like future U.S. senator Jesse Helms, supported continued white control and segregation. Supporters of Graham, like future governor and U.S. senator Terry Sanford, generally supported a more moderate approach. Jesse Helms vigorously opposed the cautious and moderate approach to the civil rights movement of Sanford's predecessor, Luther Hodges, and to Sanford's election. Through his daily editorial commentaries on television, he mobilized the same kind of racial attitudes among whites that Simmons and Aycock had tapped to win control in 1898 and 1900.Building on these and other conservative themes, Helms and his allies created another powerful North Carolina political dynasty, one that helped the Republican Party grow strong enough to challenge the Democrats' monopoly on state politics begun by Simmons and Aycock.In fact, during the Helms era, Republicans dominated U.S. Senate and presidential elections in North Carolina.Helms AND Hunt. It is a North Carolina paradox, but one that Christensen's fine book helps us begin to understand.