Duncan McLauchlin “Lauch” Faircloth, born on January 14, 1928, was a prominent American politician who left an indelible mark on North Carolina’s political landscape. While he is best known for his tenure as a Republican U.S. Senator from North Carolina, his political journey was marked by twists and turns, party switches, and a deep commitment to his home state.
Early Life and Entry into Politics
Before venturing into politics, Faircloth’s life was deeply rooted in agriculture, specifically hog farming. He was a wealthy and well-known hog farmer, running large operations in North Carolina. However, his path towards political activism began when he found himself at odds with the increasing regulations aimed at large hog farming businesses. These regulations, driven by environmental and populist concerns, sparked his interest in public policy and governance.
Faircloth’s political journey began as a Democrat. He started as a driver for North Carolina U.S. Senator Kerr Scott, a role that would influence his future significantly. Senator Scott, recognizing Faircloth’s potential, assisted him in obtaining a hardship discharge from the Korean War. This early support paved the way for Faircloth’s entry into politics.
He continued to climb the political ladder within the Democratic Party. Faircloth actively supported Terry Sanford’s gubernatorial bid in 1960 and was rewarded with an appointment to the state highway commission. Later, after assisting Robert W. Scott in his successful bid for the governorship in 1968, Faircloth was appointed chairman of the commission. He further served as Secretary of Commerce during Jim Hunt’s governorship.
Gubernatorial Aspirations and Senate Consideration
Despite his significant contributions to the Democratic Party, Faircloth’s own political ambitions faced challenges. He aspired to the governor’s office but was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1984. He also contemplated running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator John East in 1986 but ultimately decided against it due to the entry of Terry Sanford into the race.
Switch to the Republican Party
In 1990, after four decades as a Democrat, Faircloth made a significant political shift by changing his party affiliation to Republican. This move marked a turning point in his political career. With the support of Senator Jesse Helms’s political organization, he secured the Republican Senate nomination in 1992.
Senate Tenure and Reelection Campaign
During his tenure as a U.S. Senator from 1993 to 1999, Faircloth positioned himself as a conservative voice from North Carolina. He often quipped that he wanted to be known as the conservative senator from the state, distinguishing himself from his fellow North Carolina Senator, the arch-conservative Jesse Helms.
Faircloth’s bid for reelection in 1998 was met with fierce competition from Democrat John Edwards. Despite initially being considered the favorite, Faircloth ultimately lost the election to Edwards by a margin of some 83,000 votes.
Legacy and Final Comments
Following his defeat, Faircloth conceded to Edwards and expressed regret to his supporters for not securing victory. His political career had its share of controversies, including his disagreements with Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry over home rule issues.
Duncan McLauchlin “Lauch” Faircloth’s political journey was a testament to his dedication to North Carolina and his willingness to adapt to the changing political landscape. While he served only one term as a U.S. Senator, his legacy endures as part of the complex tapestry of North Carolina’s political history.