Two days after announcing she won't run for a second term, Gov. Bev Perdue set the crowd on fire at a party event in Greensboro.
Perdue hasn't spoken publicly since her announcement Thursday that she wouldn't seek re-election -- a decision, insiders say, that was immensely difficult and emotional for her.
It wasn't clear till midday Saturday that Perdue would even show up for her scheduled appearance at the Democrats' Sanford-Hunt-Frye dinner, kicking off campaign season.
But she showed up, and showed up big.
The crowd was on its feet when she walked onto the stage.
"Tonight's not about Bev," she repeated.
Her voice ragged with emotion, Perdue assured the crowd she isn't finished yet.
"I am not on my way out," she shouted to cheering supporters. "We have, as Democrats, the most important 10 months in our history in front of us."
Perdue talked about her bitter political battles with Republican lawmakers, especially over the budget. "I’ve made horrific decisions that I didn’t want to make in order to keep this state moving forward," she said.
She said she had presided over the biggest reorganization of state government in 65 years. "How dare they tell me we’re not fiscal managers? We know what we’re about," she told the crowd.
But the cuts to education, she said, were beyond what she could bear. "Economic development and education are inextricably linked," she said. "You’ve got to invest to move forward."
Perdue said she would continue to fight for more funding for schools, and would also campaign against the same-sex marriage ban on the ballot on May.
Several Democratic hopefuls were expected to announce their candidacy for governor at Saturday's event, but as of 9:30pm, only one had: Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, joined Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton on the Democratic primary slate.
Most of the others were reportedly waiting to see what Erskine Bowles would decide.
Polling has shown Bowles would be the strongest Democratic match for Republican Pat McCrory. But the former UNC chief has been hesitant to run, despite reported attempts by former Gov. Jim Hunt and former Sen. Tony Rand to draw him into the race.
Insiders say several high-profile candidates have already said they won't run if Bowles does. There's no word yet when Bowles will decide.