With Perdue Out, Democrats Wonder if They’re Better Off

By: - January 27, 2012 12:00 am

When North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue announced yesterday that she wouldn’t run for re-election this year, the reaction from some of her fellow Democrats was relief. Perdue has poor approval numbers and consistently has trailed former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, her 2008 foe and the presumed Republican nominee again this year, in polls. “Her chances at re-election were close to nil,”  wrote Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in North Carolina, “and the party’s chances at keeping the Governor’s office are better without her than they were with her.”

To some extent, Perdue suffered from the same problems governors all over the country have for the last four years. She won office in November 2008, just as the economy was collapsing, then presided over a period of budget cuts and sky-high unemployment. After Republicans won control of the North Carolina legislature in November 2010, she struggled to advance her agenda. “She achieved her dreams of being governor at the worst possible time, the worst economy in generations and a legislature hostile to her view of the world,” Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal group, told the News & Observer .

Not all her problems had to do with poor timing though. Three of her staffers from her 2008 campaign were indicted in November for violating campaign finance and disclosure rules. Her campaign finance chief pleaded guilty last month.

Democrats have a deep bench of candidates to turn to replace Perdue. Already, Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton entered the race yesterday, with more candidates expected to follow, the News & Observer reports . Still, for the Republicans, McCrory starts the race with several advantages. He has strong favorable ratings in polls and raised around $2.5 million for his campaign last year. His political base in Charlotte gives him an opportunity to perform well in a place that is typically a key source of Democratic votes in North Carolina elections.

As for Perdue, she’s still hoping to cement a legacy in her final months in office. She’s calling for a sales tax increase to fund education and presented her announcement as a way to build support for that idea, despite strong Republican opposition. “We live in highly partisan times, where some people seem more worried about scoring political points than working together to address the real challenges our state faces,” Perdue said in a  statement . “And it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools.” 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman helps lead research on fiscal management and place-based economic development programs as part of Pew’s state fiscal health project. Goodman has served as a primary author for Pew studies that examine how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.