Etheridge quickly organizing governor's campaign
Posted February 3, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — Former 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge said Friday that he doesn't believe his age or political history will negatively influence voters when it comes to him becoming North Carolina governor.
Etheridge got in the race late Thursday – one week after the party nomination opened wide with Gov. Beverly Perdue's decision not to seek re-election. He said he intends to make education a critical part of his campaign platform. He's the third Democrat to get into the primary, joining Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and state Rep. Bill Faison of Orange County.
He dismissed words from presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Pat McCrory this week that the current and potential candidates are "retreads" from old Democratic politics. Several other Democrats are still looking at getting in, including 13th District Congressman Brad Miller, former State Treasurer Richard Moore and state Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County.
"I believe the issues that are critical to this state are about leadership," Etheridge said in a news conference outside state Democratic Party headquarters in Raleigh. "It isn't about slogans or tags. It's about providing leadership for the state in the very core areas of education that undergirds economic growth."
The seven-term congressman from Lillington previously served in the state House and eight years as state schools superintendent. He's 70 years old and would be among the state's oldest governors if he won in November. Age isn't an issue in this race, he said.
"The state needs that now. They need a steady hand, someone who really understands what will make a difference," he said, saying voters would get "a known quantity" with him.
"My life work has been about public education. This is a defining moment in the history of this state," he said.
Etheridge lost his U.S. House seat in 2010 to Republican Renee Ellmers by less than 1,500 votes. The campaign was marked by an online video showing Etheridge swatting at the camera, demanding that two men taping him identify themselves and grabbing one of them by the wrist and neck.
He immediately apologized for the incident and said Friday that he is trying to focus on future instead of the past.
'I can't do anything other than say I had a bad day," he said. "It was a setup and we know that, but I'm not going to go back and dwell with that.
"I accepted my responsibility for that part. I wish the other folks would do the same," he said. "You've got to move forward. We can't deal with the past. You've got to move forward now and deal with that because now it's about the future of North Carolina's children and its people."
Etheridge, whose parents didn't complete high school, said he's lived the American dream thanks to public education and is running for North Carolina governor to keep that investment going. He said Republicans in the legislature have tried to stop those investments from continuing by cutting education spending.
"I really believe the 21st century is going to belong to the educated," he said.
He didn't answer directly whether he supports Perdue's proposal to raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a penny to make up for the education reductions. Dalton has said he backs the idea. Faison has pushed a largely similar idea. Republicans legislative leaders are against it.
Etheridge said education cuts need to stop because, this fall, local school districts will run out of more than $240 million in federal money to bolster education jobs. The Republicans shouldn't have let expire a temporary extra penny on the sales tax last July, he said.
"You take care of the basic things, and that's the basic things for children," he said. "If you don't do the job you need to do today, you're going to be paying for it for years and years to come."
Dalton said last week he is opposed to changing the state constitution to add a provision to prohibit gay marriage. A referendum will be held the same day as the May 8 primary. Etheridge said Friday he believed voters would make the right decision but he didn't express what the right decision would be.