Over the years, Andy Griffith was active in Democratic politics, especially for former Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley and former Senate leader Marc Basnight.
In 1977, Griffith hosted an inauguration festival for the newly elected Hunt. In 1984, he stumped for Hunt in Eastern North Carolina and taped political ads for the governor’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.
A number of Democrats tried to recruit Griffith to challenge Helms in 1990, even going as far as printing “Run Andy Run” bumper stickers. Despite the lobbying effort, Griffith never seriously considered running.
In 2000, then-Attorney General Easley, previously the front-runner in the gubernatorial race against Richard Vinroot, saw his lead evaporate in the final weeks of the campaign. With the help of Senate leader Basnight, Easley tapped Griffith for several last-minute TV ads filmed in Manteo.
Democrats credited the ad with turning the tide for Easley, especially in Eastern North Carolina, dubbing it “The Mayberry Miracle.” But Vinroot disputed its effectiveness.
Griffith appeared in another last-minute ad for Easley in 2005, leading Republican candidate Patrick Ballantine to complain that Griffith was a “liberal actor who played a conservative sheriff.”
In appreciation for his help, Easley had Griffith give the state toast at his 2001 inauguration and read a poem at his 2005 inauguration.
In April 2008, Griffith appeared in an ad for Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, who was running against state Treasurer Richard Moore for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. “Oh, you’re going to be a goooood governor,” he told Perdue in the ad.
After Perdue won the nomination, her Republican opponent, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, complained about Griffith’s frequent endorsements of state Democrats.
“There is one political reality in North Carolina, and that is every four years about a week or two before the gubernatorial election, Andy Griffith the actor recommends one of the candidates,” McCrory said at a June debate before the N.C. Bar Association. He argued that “Sheriff Taylor” would have problems with the criminal justice system today.
In October 2008, Griffith starred in a web video with director Ron Howard, reprising their roles from “The Andy Griffith Show” to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
At Perdue’s inauguration in January 2009, Griffith read a poem written by his wife, Cindi.
In 2010, Griffith pitched President Obama’s health care law in a 30-second ad aimed at older viewers.