Orange County Representative Bill Faison is the first - and, so far, the only - Democratic public official to call for Gov. Bev Perdue to step aside next year.
Faison said today he's confident the governor will “do the right thing and decide not to run” for re-election in 2012.
Perdue campaign spokesman Marc Farinella says that's wishful thinking on Faison’s part.
“Governor Perdue is running for re-election. I can say that unequivocally,” Farinella said with a laugh.
Perdue actually announced a year ago that she would seek a second term. But this week, a grand jury indicted two of her former campaign staffers and a longtime family friend for false campaign finance reporting and obstruction of justice.
Wake County DA Colon Willoughby has repeatedly said the governor is not the focus of the investigation and has fully cooperated with it. But Faison says the probe makes her a weaker candidate. In fact, he says, she’s not even really campaigning.
“Is her focus really on a jobs plan? Where IS her jobs plan?” Faison asked.
“I think the focus that the governor has right now is on not only the indictments that have come out, but the ongoing investigation which has the potential to lead to more indictments,” Faison said. “And I think what we need is to move forward with strong leadership on the issues that are affecting the people in our state, [and] go to work solving the problems.”
“Governor Perdue is very focused on her job,” Farinella retorted, citing today’s announcement of Chiquita’s move to Charlotte. He also says her campaign is underway and her fundraising is going well.
Farinella said he doesn’t believe Perdue’s proximity to the campaign finance probe will hurt her in 2012. “What voters will care about is that the governor has never been the focus of this investigation, that her conduct has never been in question, and that she is out there fighting for the issues that voters care about – mostly creating jobs and fighting for our schools,” he said.
Faison has a different take. “I think the Democratic ranks are concerned that we continue with an agenda focused on putting people back to work and promoting education - things I feel like the Republicans have been tearing apart,” he said. “And I think we as Democrats certainly will look for ways to put forth strong candidates to promote those ideals and issues, and that we’ll all come together around the candidates we select.”
Farinella thinks Faison's call for Perdue to step aside is less about leadership than political ambition.
“Look, Bill Faison thinks he ought to have a higher office. He wants to be governor or senator or president. And he thinks the way to do that is to spread innuendo or falsehoods about someone else.”
“A few months ago, he ran for chairman of his own party and was soundly trounced,” said Farinella. “He doesn’t even have a following there. He’s become all about himself, and I think a lot of people in his own party find that very disappointing, and I think that’s what you were hearing from him today. ”
Faison has said he will not challenge Perdue in a Democratic primary. But if she doesn't run, he might.
“It's certainly something I'm considering, but [that’s] a decision to be made some weeks in the future,” Faison confirmed.
“She is running,” Farinella reiterated. “And Mr. Faison, I think, needs to come to terms with that. He is not going to be the Democratic candidate for governor, as much as he really wants to.”
The raw interview with Farinella is above, and the interview with Faison is at right.