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Erskine Bowles

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Erskine Bowles

Erskine Boyce Bowles (born 8 August 1945) is an American businessman and political figure from the U.S. state of North Carolina.

Bowles was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina and was the son of Skipper Bowles, a Democratic politician. Bowles attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in business. After briefy serving in the United States Coast Guard, Bowles then enrolled in the Columbia Business School, where he earned a M.B.A. and served as student body president.

Following graduation, Bowles worked for the financial firm Morgan Stanley in New York City. There, he met his wife, Crandall Close; the two married in 1971 and moved to North Carolina, where Bowles worked on his father's 1972 gubernatorial campaign. They had three children: Sam, Annie, and Bill.

In 1975, Bowles helped launch the investment firm of Bowles Hollowell Conner, and remained in the corporate sector until the 1990s. In 1992, he became involved in politics as a fundraiser for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. President Clinton appointed Bowles to head the Small Business Administration in 1993. From October 1994 to December 1995, Bowles served as Clinton's deputy chief of staff.

Briefly returning to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he helped found the merchant bank Carousel Capital, Bowles was appointed Clinton's Chief of Staff in December 1996. One of Bowles' major responsibilities was dealing with federal budget negotiations between the White House and Congress. Bowles returned to the field of finance again in October 1998 and currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although initially reluctant to seek political office, Bowles reconsidered a run for the Senate after the September 11, 2001 attacks and, in October 2001, declared his candidacy for the United States Senate as a Democratic candidate. Seeking to fill the seat being vacated by Jesse Helms, Bowles secured the party's nomination, but was defeated in the general election by Republican challenger Elizabeth Dole.

In 2004, Bowles campaigned again for the Senate, seeking to fill the seat being vacated by fellow Democrat John Edwards. He faced Republican Richard Burr and Libertarian Tom Bailey in a hotly contested race. The final month of the Senate campaign saw both Bowles' and Burr's campaigns turn strongly negative, with Burr's campaign attacking Bowles' associations with the Clinton administration, while Bowles' campaign attacked Burr on his support of trade legislation and special interest donations. Both campaigns spent a great deal of money, making it one of the most expensive statewide races in North Carolina history.

Despite an early lead in the polls after the primaries, Bowles was defeated in the 2004 race as well. During his concession speech in Raleigh at the Democratic headquarters, he thanked his supporters but seemed to indicate that he would not run for office again. Quoting his father, he said there were "many ways to add to the community woodpile" and that political office was only one of them. Accordingly, in 2005 Bowles accepted an appointment as U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Tsunami-affected Countries, once again working for Bill Clinton who was now serving as U.N. Special Envoy.

Preceded by:
Leon Panetta
White House Chief of Staff Succeeded by:
John Podesta
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