RALEIGH, N.C. — With the North Carolina primary around the corner, Gov. Mike Easley has to get through a Democratic challenger before a possible November showdown with Republicans. Easley is busy mapping out his strategy to win another four years.
Easley began his term with the economy and education as his main priorities. Four years later, he said he has made progress on both.
"The thing that I'm most proud of has to be getting the budget balanced and investing in education at the same time. We cut state government," he said. "[We] got back to our core mission then took dollars and invested in education. As a result of that, we've seen the test scores rise, the workforce more skilled, the business climate better."
When asked about anything that Easley wished had gone differently in his current term of office, he said he always wished he could have accomplished more.
"I wish I had gotten an education lottery. I wish I had gotten from the Legislature more funds for economic development," he said.
As the incumbent, Easley is taking regular hits from his challengers. A recent ad from Republican gubernatorial candidate Fern Shubert associates him with the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I thought it was foolish. Nobody pays attention to anything that much over the top," he said. "That says a lot about the way some people approach politics, and I'm very disappointed that they went into that level of the gutter."
The polls show Easley leading all his Republican challengers. If that translates into votes in November, he will have another four years to accomplish what he set out to do.
"We've got to fully transition this economy with new and better jobs. I think we can get that done over the next two- or three-year period," he said. "If we don't get it done in the next two or three years, then it won't happen. That's why I'm so aggressive in trying to get it done now."