Former state Democratic Party chairman Jim Van Hecke says, ``Helms won on race, pure and simple' (News & Record, Nov. 23). In fact, Helms won in spite of race. I'll bet you that, if Harvey Gantt hadn't been black, he wouldn't have gotten 42 percent of the vote. North Carolina doesn't want an ``unapologetically liberal' senator and isn't going to elect one, be he black or white. Even Attorney General Lacy Thornburg understands that: (``I think it's pretty simple. Do we as Democrats want to elect a conservative voice that can win in November?') I just hope the Democrats keep running liberals; the white Democrats will lose even more convincingly than the black Democrats. I challenge a conservative black candidate to run as a Republican; if he can get just 50 percent of the black voters' support, he will win in a landslide. C. Allen Foster Greensboro

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