Gov. Bev Perdue will not seek a second term, her office announced today. The news could potentially upset North Carolina’s political balance, with the primary election filing deadline looming and national presidential candidates looking to the state for party support.
Perdue’s announcement comes as a surprise to most political strategists and opens up the field on the Democratic side in this fall’s gubernatorial match-up against expected GOP candidate Pat McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte and Perdue opponent in 2008.
“It is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools,” Perdue said in a statement this morning.
Just this week, Perdue was proposing to restore a portion of the eliminated sales tax to fund education priorities, and her re-election campaign was actively fundraising for the election. Ferrel Guillory, expert on Southern politics and director of the Program on Public Life, said all evidence pointed to Gov. Perdue and state Democrats putting together the infrastructure for her campaign, and that her decision not to run has several unexplained factors.
“This must have been an extremely personal decision,” Guillory said.
A Jan. 17 poll from Public Policy Polling put Perdue behind her likely GOP opponent Pat McCrory, 52-41, in a November match-up, and national strategists were calling Perdue one of the most vulnerable gubernatorial candidates in the country. Earlier this month, reporters were surprised when Perdue was booed at a UNC basketball game in Chapel Hill, a town traditionally considered a political stronghold for the Democrat.
Polling found that Perdue was generally unpopular in North Carolina, and that a generic Democratic candidate could hold up better against McCrory.
With Perdue out of the running in the Democratic primary, possible replacements include Orange County Rep. Bill Faison, former UNC-System President Erskine Bowles, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, and former U.S. congressman Bob Etheridge.
Public Policy Polling ran numbers on some of these possibilities and their chances against McCrory, with Bowles’s chances looking most promising.
Guillory cautioned against reading too much into the numbers.
“As we’ve learned anew, and we learn again every day in the Republican race, campaigns are not decided by polling data. They’re not decided how candidates look on paper. You have to have real-life human beings campaigning and asking people for their vote,” Guillory said. “This is going to have ripple effects.”
With North Carolina a significant swing state in national elections, the president will often work to influence his party’s success in the state, Guillory said, as President George Bush did with the elections of Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole. Democrats are holding their national convention in Charlotte in August in an attempt to build Southern support for Obama’s re-election.
“It would not surprise me for the White House to do what it can to make sure that whatever happens in the governor’s race here isn’t so disrupted as to hurt the president’s chances here,” Guillory said.
Republican Pat McCrory was expected to officially announce his candidacy later this week. He ran against Perdue in 2008, narrowly losing to the Democrat by only three percentage points.
“It’s now clear that the past four years of having a Democratic governor in North Carolina have been a failure,” said Phil Cox, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, in an official statement. “It’s never been more clear that North Carolina needs a Republican governor who will bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the governor’s office.”
According to state regulations, gubernatorial candidates must file a notice for candidacy in the filing period between Feb. 13 and Feb. 29. The full list of filing requirements is posted on the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.
Guillory noted that the Democratic candidate most likely to succeed will be the one who can most quickly put together a campaign.
“Where the crunch comes is that the filing deadline is right on us,” he said. “The person who has the advantage is the person who shows he can raise money and put an organization together quickly.”
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