Despite two losses, Gantt really deserves credit for energizing progressive forces in NC. In fact, it was the Gantt-Helms race in 1990 that gave birth to the "new" Democratic Party in Watauga County. One could draw a straight line from Gantt organizers in Watauga in 1990 to the Democratic sweeps here in 2004, 2006, and 2008.
Interviewed by Rob Christensen in the N&O, Gantt recognized the changes in NC demographics since his first run for the Senate:
"I think it means the nature ... of North Carolina has changed substantially from those races in the 1990s. It's a younger population. It's a much more moderate population. The urban centers are much more influential in terms of North Carolina -- Charlotte, the Triangle, the Triad, Wilmington and Asheville."
When Gantt first ran in 1990, Christensen points out, there were 3.3 million registered voters; today there are 6.2 million.