Local Politics

Is D.C. in Political Future for Easley?

Posted May 10, 2007 6:02 p.m. EDT
Updated May 10, 2007 7:35 p.m. EDT

— With about 20 months until he leaves office, speculation is growing on where Gov. Mike Easley will head next.

Easley has said he wants to continue in public service in some form, but state law prevents him from seeking a third term as governor in 2008. When questioned about his future, the only thing he has been clear about is that he doesn't want to run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

"They need to quit coming to me because I just would not fit in the senate very well," he said.

Yet, Easley regularly shows up on the national stage, talking about the National Guard or education reform.

Ferrel Guillory, who founded the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he sees many options for Easley, especially if a Democrat wins the White House.

"Easley certainly would be on the first list of vice presidential possibilities," Guillory said. "His political talents are still in shape."

Other observers also see cabinet positions like attorney general or secretary of education or homeland security as good matches with Easley's resume.

"I think Gov. Easley will continue to be involved in public policy," state Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

"He's not acting as a politician who feels his career is over," Guillory said.

But Easley's critics question whether his management style would fly nationally.

"It's a detached style. It's been very successful for him, but it makes it very difficult for me to tell you what his political future might be. I can't see him running around the country," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

Another Republican, recalling the governor's fender-bender behind the wheel of a race car, joked that Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be starting a new NASCAR team and might take a chance on an amateur driver with a spotty record like Easley.