Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat elected in 2008 who struggled to maintain support among voters, won’t run for re-election.
North Carolina is a so-called swing state that backed President Barack Obama in 2008 by less than 1 percentage point. Hoping to solidify support there, the Democratic Party scheduled its September national convention in Charlotte.
Still, the state’s Democratic chief executive foundered, with less than a third of voters approving of her performance, according to a Public Policy Polling survey this month. The poll indicated that Perdue, a 65-year-old who is North Carolina’s first female governor, would face a tough re-election fight.
Her announcement today came after a battle with the Republican-dominated Legislature over school funding.
“The thing I care about most right now is making sure that our schools and schoolchildren do not continue to be the victims of shortsighted legislative actions and severe budget cuts inflicted by a legislative majority with the wrong priorities,” Perdue said in a statement.
“Therefore, I am announcing today that I have decided not to seek re-election. I hope this decision will open the door to an honest and bipartisan effort to help our schools.”
David Parker, North Carolina’s Democratic Party chairman, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters that the party would have “no trouble selecting a strong gubernatorial candidate.”
Fights With Lawmakers
Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the November election, led Perdue in various polls by at least 10 percentage points, said Ballard Everett, a Raleigh consultant for Republican candidates.
Perdue, a former lawmaker and lieutenant governor, clashed repeatedly with the Legislature, in Republican hands for the first time since the 1870s. They have fought over issues including benefits for the jobless and letting death-row inmates use statistical evidence of racial discrimination to challenge their convictions.
She proposed a 0.75 percent sales tax this month to fund education, noting that North Carolina ranks 49th in per-pupil spending on schools. State Senate leader Phil Berger and other members of the Legislature denounced the idea.
Making Herself Scarce
While television trucks lined the north lawn of the State Capitol in Raleigh and flanked the front gate at the Governor’s Mansion, the only official word of Perdue’s decision came in a brief press release issued just after noon. Jay Parmley, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said he was surprised by the decision.
“This was her own personal decision,” he said. “She was under no pressure, at all, from anyone.”
Perdue benefited in the 2008 election from a surge in voters drawn by the Obama campaign, said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh. Democrats stand a better chance of holding the governor’s office without Perdue on the ballot, he said.
“Perdue’s chances for re-election were pretty close to zero, so I guess she finally saw the writing on the wall,” said Jensen, whose firm works for Democratic candidates.
Republicans capitalized on discontent with Obama and the economy to capture a majority of governorships in 2010, and elections this year will give them another chance to expand their lead. Of the 11 governor races this year, all but three are in states currently led by Democrats.
Hunting a Candidate
In North Carolina, potential Democratic candidates include state Representative Bill Faison of Orange County and Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton, Everett said. Calls to Faison and Dalton weren’t immediately returned.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, based in Washington, today solicited its members’ interest in a possible candidacy by Representative Brad Miller, a Raleigh Democrat who has decided not to run again after a decade in Congress.
Miller has not ruled out the idea, said LuAnn Canipe, a spokeswoman.
“Perdue not running again is good news for Democrats up and down the ticket,” Jensen said. “Obama wouldn’t have wanted to be seen in public with Perdue. My advice to any candidate would have been to avoid her like the plague.”
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