Updated - see below
Gov. Bev Perdue may not be the only Democratic candidate for governor on May’s primary ballot.
Perdue’s poll numbers have rebounded a bit from earlier lows, aided lately by her handling of Hurricane Irene. But she’s still perceived as vulnerable in 2012, even by members of her own party establishment. For weeks, rumors have circulated about potential challengers making phone calls and assessing their odds.
Democratic consultant Brad Crone said a primary challenge is very possible. “With the political troubles Perdue’s been facing, it would not surprise me if she faced a challenge from [state Rep.] Bill Faison in the legislature or from the business community,” he said.
Crone has worked for Faison in the past, but is not at present.
Multiple sources say Faison has been making inquiries.
Much depends on the outcome of an ongoing state and federal investigation into the Perdue campaign’s failure to timely report donations of more than $56,000 worth of air travel in 2004 and 2008. A subsequent probe by the State Elections Board ended in a $30,000 fine for the campaign last year.
Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby asked the SBI to look into the matter, though he said at the time his concerns were not about Perdue herself. Perdue said she was confident the investigation would not find "criminal wrongdoing" by her campaign.
In February of this year, one contributor, Robert Caldwell of Morganton, was indicted for felony obstruction of justice. Willoughby said at that time he “would not be surprised to see more charges.”
An ongoing grand jury is reportedly still looking into the matter. If more indictments should come down, and if they’re people who are close to Perdue, she could decide to withdraw from the race, forcing Democrats to find another candidate.
Update: Faison declined to confirm or deny the rumors Friday, but clarified Saturday that while he would consider a run for governor if Perdue opts not to run for re-election, he will not challenge her.