Former NC-2 Dem Congressman Bob Etheridge told us yesterday he was waiting to see whether Erskine Bowles would enter the governor's race before making his own announcement.
He wasn't kidding. The ink was barely dry on Bowles' announcement today when Etheridge sent word he'd run for the nomination.
Etheridge was a state House lawmaker for Harnett County before his election as state schools chief in 1988. He served two terms in that office, then won a seat in Congress in 1996. He served fourteen years in the US House before being unseated by Republican newcomer Renee Ellmers in 2010.
Ellmers, backed by the Tea Party, wasn't initially considered a serious threat to the incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district. But that changed with the release of a video by a GOP operative who was tracking Etheridge on the streets of Washington, DC. In the video, taken in June 2010, Etheridge grabs the young man by the back of the neck and arm, repeatedly asking "Who are you?" in a combative tone.
Etheridge apologized the next day, but the video had already gone viral.
Despite Ellmers' on-the-record repudiation of the video's "gotcha tactics," the damaging footage nonetheless made its way into her campaign ads. It also showed up in anti-Etheridge TV ads paid for by "Americans for Job Security," a GOP-linked 501(c)6 that spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in the race, but isn't legally required to disclose its donors.
Etheridge lost his seat five months later. Since then, he's served as Perdue's economic recovery and disaster relief czar.
Two years later, he's decided to try to return to the political world.
"After considerable thought and a whole lot of encouragement, I am announcing today, my candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor," Etheridge said in a statement this afternoon.
"My life’s work has been about improving the public education system in North Carolina. As we move forward, we must ensure we are making the key investments in public education, community colleges and the university system.
"This election is about leadership. It’s about moving forward - not moving backward.
"I will be talking about our future and our commitment to move North Carolina forward. If we want a 21st century economy, we must have 21st century schools."
Etheridge joins two other announced candidates on the Democrats' May primary ballot: Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton and Chapel Hill state lawmaker Bill Faison.