Perdue pledges forceful education push, no lame-duck politics
Posted January 29, 2012
Updated January 30, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Just 72 hours after the shocking announcement that Gov. Bev Perdue wouldn't seek re-election in 2012, she opened up to WRAL News in an exclusive interview Sunday about her decision to push for public education over politics.
"There were a lot of personal reasons involved in this decision that I'll never discuss in public," she said at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, in her first media interview since she announced her decision Thursday.
But she did have this message for the people of North Carolina: "Don't anybody dare tell me that I'm a lame duck.
"I will not go away. There are going to be people in this state, until the day I die, who will continue this conversation with me about education," she said. "This is a battle for the heart and soul of this state."
Perdue, a former teacher, plans to devote her final 11 months in office to pressing the legislature to pass a three-quarters of a cent sales tax increase for education. She said she has to remove herself from election politics to be an effective advocate for the children of North Carolina.
"This is not going to be something that's going to become a political wedge issue in a campaign," she said. "This is something I'm passionate about."
On Saturday night, at the Democratic Party's Sanford-Hunt-Frye dinner in Greensboro, Perdue made her first public appearance since announcing her decision. She was greeted warmly by a cheering, chanting audience that raised "We Love Bev" placards into the air and praised her tenacity in taking on the Republican leadership in the General Assembly.
That relationship – between the Republican-controlled state legislature and the Democratic governor – has often been a contentious one, marked by frustration and anger.
In October, North Carolina lost its bid to bring a Continental Tire plant, with about 1,300 new jobs, to Brunswick County because state leaders couldn't agree on the fine print of a $100 million package in tax credits and grants for the company. Continental Tire took its $1 billion investment to Sumter County, S.C., instead, in a decision Perdue called "one of the darkest days for North Carolina."
"I was furious. I was disgusted. I thought, 'How dare these people say they're leaders when they can't make decisions for the good of the state?'" she said.
Her re-election bid was showing signs of weakness before her decision to drop out. Her approval rating was low in various polls, and she faced a potential rematch against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican whom she narrowly defeated in 2008 in the state's closest gubernatorial contest since 1972.
News that she would end her campaign broke on a Washington blog, prompting speculation that President Barack Obama, wanting a strong Democrat in office to help him win North Carolina, had asked Perdue to step aside.
Perdue dismissed the rumors and said she has a great personal relationship with the president.
"I've been with the president several times where we've talked about this. He was just as supportive of me as I of him," she said. "He would have never, ever doubted the fact that we could win this race together."