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Perdue Positioned to Become N.C.'s Firtst Woman Governor

Posted December 8, 2006

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— Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue hopes that in tow years, she will crash the boys' club that has been the North Carolina Governor's Office.

From Richard Caswell in 1776 to Gov. Mike Easley, all of the state's cheif executives have been men. But political observers say Perdue is well positioned to break that streak in 2008.

"Obviously, I'm testing the waters. I would be less than honest if I didn't say that. They're mighty warm," Perdue said Friday.

She has lobbied to save North Carolina's military installations. She's behind a new group to recruit more defense contracts to the state. On Friday, she was putting her support behind a plan to wire rural counties for high-speed Internet service.

"As a woman, her association with the military, I think, enhances her strength," political commentator Barlow Herget said, calling Perdue's moves savvy positioning.

Perdue claimed her involvement in military issues has nothing to do with politics, maintaining that voters will decide the governor's race in 2008 based on leadership, not gender.

Twenty years ago, she ran for state Senate with signs that only featured her last name so many voters wouldn't know her gender. But she said times have changed.

"I'm ready to be governor, and I think the people are ready for this woman to be governor," she said.

Herget agreed, citing North Carolina women serving as judges, on the Council of State and in Congress.

"North Carolina, I think, is ready for a woman governor," he said.

Still, Perdue likely will face a tough Democratic primary fight from State Treasurer Richard Moore. Republicans are also testing the political waters, with Sen. Fred Smith, R-Johnston, and Salisbury attorney Bill Graham topping the list of potential candidates.

Recent history plays in Perdue's favor.

A poll by political research group NCFREE found 28 percent of voters are more likely to cast a ballot for her because she's a woman, while 18 percent would be less likely. Also, 55 percent of the state's voters are women.
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