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Politics

Perdue's Visits to the Queen City

http://66.225.205.104/SO20080924.mp3

At the opening of her campaign office in Charlotte's Dilworth neighborhood, Bev Perdue shakes hands and chats animatedly with supporters. She also talks campaign tactics with fellow Democrats until her press secretary tells her there's a microphone behind her. High powered politicians, business leaders and Democratic fundraiser, Crandall Bowles turn out for Perdue's appearance. She reassures the group that she has far-reaching connections to the Queen City. "My footprints are all over this community. Crandall Bowles knows that," says Perdue. For example, she likes sports and the theater. She says, "I come to professional athletic opportunities, as much as I can as my calendar allows me to. I've been to the symphony, to the performing arts theater here." Perdue also says ties between Charlotte and Raleigh would be permanent if she were governor. "I'm going to open an office of the governor of North Carolina in the Queen City, the largest city in this great state of North Carolina: the city of Charlotte. You can take that to the bank!" she says to the enthusiastic crowd. Her script was essentially the same two weeks earlier during a visit in uptown Charlotte. At this event, Perdue is flanked by Charlotte women who hold public office. "I'm really proud to be the first woman to run for governor but that doesn't matter at all. I don't wake up in the night believing people across NC care about that much," she says. Before entering politics, Perdue taught kindergarten and high school. She says, "Because I believe in the public schools. I wouldn't be standing here otherwise. And I do believe that kids from low-wage hardworking families ought to be able to know that when they're trying to do right, play by the rules, that they have a pathway to go on to vocational school, or community college, or the university." Perdue changed careers. She was a consultant for geriatric and aftercare programs. Then she ran for office. She spent four years in the state house and then 10 in the senate before running for lieutenant governor eight years ago. Perdue credits her time in the state senate particularly on the powerful appropriations committee, with helping expand UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College. "You all have a major gift to this area here. As governor I'm going to help you grow both campuses. I'm going to you become a research platform at UNCC," she says It's an education and jobs platform, whose ingredients have churned out a winning formula for the current and past governors of this state. "You're looking at a leader who understands that you only get successful with jobs, jobs and more jobs. And I'm going to spend everyday to make sure the North Carolina's economy and workforce are healthy and ready to succeed," she says. Away from the campaign trail, Perdue appears at a presentation at a solar panel manufacturing company in Charlotte. She attends the event in her official capacity as lieutenant governor. We sit down for a quick interview after. She takes credit for signing the solar panel company on to a state incentives program. "You've seen today what my vision is for growing a green economy right here in North Carolina. I know it starts with education right there in North Carolina. The mayor wants to take away $900M from public schools for private school tuition," she says. She's referring to Pat McCrory's plan for vouchers for struggling students. She weaves this into her message at every opportunity. During the interviewer Perdue sticks to her talking points. But she reveals a little more of herself when asked what she wanted to be, growing up. "I really always wanted to be a writer. I loved English and I loved words. But when I got to college my freshman English teacher convinced me that I was not going to write the great American novel!" she says with a laugh. Perdue earned a BA in history from the University of Kentucky and a PhD in education administration from the University of Florida. She's proud of her decision to run for public office in the 1980s. "I decided to take on the status quo. In Eastern NC at that time, a woman didn't run for office. The good old boy network told me no, they wouldn't help me. And I took the risk because I wanted to make a difference," she says. Perdue's staying power in the capital has lasted more than 20 years. And she's being painted as the status quo. But the tag also has its advantages. Perdue leads McCrory two to one in fundraising. In a tight race, that money could prove to be an advantage down the stretch.