Perdue's Surprise Announcement Turns 2012 Election On Its Ear
Governor Bev Perdue will not seek re-election. That announcement yesterday turned upside-down a rematch of the 2008 campaign pitting Perdue against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. How quickly things change. Less than two months ago, Governor Perdue's campaign spokesman told WRAL in Raleigh, "Governor Perdue is running for re-election. I can say that unequivocally. It certainly looked like it. Perdue's campaign reported raising $2.6 million last year - matching the funds raised by her main rival, Pat McCrory. But Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen says the numbers were not looking good for Perdue. She's presided over several years of tough budget cuts and she's dealing with baggage from her 2008 campaign. Her former campaign finance chairman pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and two campaign staffers have been indicted for submitting false finance reports. A number of Perdue's high profile donors had even jumped ship to raise money for McCrory. Pollster Tom Jensen says Perdue has persistently been one of the least popular governors in the country. "Our most recent poll had her with a 32% approval rating and trailing Pat McCrory by 11 points," says Jensen. "So chances are, a new face will have a better chance at winning this than Perdue would have." Perdue doesn't talk about her party's chances for re-election in the statement she released around noon yesterday. Rather, she hopes her decision "will open the door to an honest and bipartisan effort to help our schools." Running for re-election would "further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools," she states. By all accounts, Perdue's decision was a surprise to Democrats, who were left scrambling to respond. "We were expecting governor Perdue to mount up a campaign to take on Pat McCrory," says Former Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chairman Joel Ford. And just last week, Perdue made a policy announcement that many believed would underpin her campaign for re-election. She criticized Republican lawmakers for damaging cuts to education and said she would push for a sales tax increase to fill the gap. "North Carolina's children are worth this renewed investment in education," said Perdue in a video posted on her website. "Our history is replete with leaders and citizens who stood up and helped children. It's our time now. I'm counting on you. Thanks so much." Charlotte attorney Seth Bernanke is disappointed that Perdue is not running. He made substantial contributions to Perdue's campaign - including $2,000 last June. "I think that she was strong and well-intentioned and I think she could have accomplished a great deal in a second term," says Bernanke. "I invested a lot of emotional, as well as financial, support in her re-election and I'm hopeful the money will be used to help whatever Democrat is selected to run." "The North Carolina Democratic Party will have no trouble finding a strong candidate who can win in November," says state party chairman David Parker. UNC Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig says that candidate will have the advantage of running without any of Perdue's baggage, but "she leaves them to do a lot in a very short period of time." "Presumably any Democrat with ambition has been not planning a campaign this year because they expected Perdue to run," says Heberlig. Meanwhile, Republican Pat McCrory has spent the last three years drumming up support around the state in anticipation of a rematch. "People know who he is, people know what he stands for and they like him as a person," says North Carolina Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood. "Those are three things that cannot be said about Governor Perdue. And so if (McCrory) is the nominee, I think he will have a very strong chance at being governor." McCrory is the leading candidate for the GOP nomination in the May 8th primary, but the Democratic field is suddenly wide open. Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton says he will run. Attorney General Roy Cooper says he will not. Others favor Charlotte Democrat and former UNC system president Erskine Bowles - he polled even with McCrory in a fantasy match-up done by Public Policy Polling back in October. Sitting Congressman Brad Miller could run, since he announced yesterday he won't seek re-election in re-drawn district boundaries that would force him to face-off against fellow Democratic Representative David Price. And then there's Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx whose prominence is rising as the Democratic National Convention approaches. Foxx vs. McCrory? "That would be an epic political battle," says Mecklenburg County Democrat Joel Ford. Mayor Foxx left the door open to a run for Governor in a statement released late yesterday. He said he'll spend the next few weeks talking with family and friends about he can "best serve our city and state."