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NC Dems To Gather, Regroup On Saturday

North Carolina Democrats convene in Greensboro Saturday night to kick off their strategy for 2012 and raise funds at the annual Sanford Hunt Frye dinner. Governor Perdue's surprise announcement gives Democrats a lot of table talk. This is typically the weekend when Democrats around the state gather to get revved up for the election and cheer on their candidates. Governor Bev Perdue was on that list until she shocked the party with her decision not to seek re-election. Suddenly the annual Sanford Hunt Frye dinner is a very important venue for Democrats with ambition. "Well, it'll activate a lot of people," admits former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye, one of the Democratic Party luminaries for whom the fundraising dinner is named. The event is sold out. More than 800 people are expected and others are buying discounted tickets to be in the overflow room. Governor Perdue is on the dinner agenda to make her first speech since announcing plans to bow out of the race. But an even bigger draw for many attendees is the chance for corner chats and ear-bending between party faithful. Mecklenburg County Democrat Gautam Desai says it's perfect timing for a statewide gathering. "I'm hoping that informal conversations will help focus the field in such a way that it does improve the best chance of getting the person who is not only the most electable also the best governor for the next eight years," says Desai, who serves on the executive board of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. The grapevine is already abuzz with hopefuls drumming up support, says Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts. "Certainly there are a number of names, a number of positions, that are being thrown around," says Roberts. "People want to meet now where a few days ago wasn't the case." Democrats with an eye on the Governor's Mansion have a mere three months to mount a campaign before the May 8th primary. Party faithful are confident they have a deep pool of possibilities to choose from and Perdue's poor poll numbers suggest a fresh face might do better in November. As candidates jump in, high-profile Democrats like Justice Henry Frye face the sticky business of deciding where to place their endorsement. He expects at least three of his friends to run for governor and he'll have to decide which to support. The Republican field for governor is expected to be much less crowded. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has spent the last three years raising money and support for a bid he plans to formally announce on Tuesday.