Perdue becomes N.C.'s first female governor
Posted November 4, 2008 6:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 5, 2008 4:47 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Democrat Beverly Perdue will step into North Carolina's Executive Mansion as the next governor and the first woman to hold that job.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Perdue led with 50 percent of the vote, or over 2.1 million votes, to Republican Pat McCrory's 47 percent, or more than 1.975 million votes. Libertarian Mike Munger was polling around 3 percent, or 120,000 votes.
Perdue, 61, the current Democrat lieutenant governor, makes history and becomes North Carolina's first female governor. She was already the first woman elected to state government from Craven County and to the lieutenant governor's post.
Her victory became clear when McCrory gave a short, surprise concession speech while the votes were still being tallied.
"Just thinking about me being a woman is important," Perdue said Tuesday at a voting stop at North Carolina Central University in Durham. "I haven't run simply because I'm the first woman candidate running, but I hear it everywhere I go. Little girls and little boys, just say 'Wow, is it possible?' So, yeah, it's exciting, mighty exciting."
A record total of six women, including Perdue, will sit on North Carolina's Council of State – including Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Treasurer Janet Cowell, Auditor Beth Wood, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry.
McCrory joked that he didn't like long concession speeches, and he delivered a short one shortly before 11 p.m. at a Charlotte hotel. The concession caught most by surprise, and some volunteers and staffers cried during the speech. The candidate indicated that he planned to keep seeking public office, however.
"It's always been about public service, and I'm proud to be a public servant," McCrory said.
Perdue said she talked with McCrory by phone and praised him for running a "good campaign." They will continue to "work together as partners" for the good of North Carolina, Perdue said.
Munger, a Duke University political science professor, pulled in enough support to achieve a significant milestone for his party. He broke the 2 percent mark that Libertarians needed to surpass for future candidates to get on the ballot automatically, without the party having to mount a costly petition drive.
In her acceptance speech, Perdue pledged to change the way state government is run, reform the transportation department, create "openness" in the state budget and contracts, and maintain high ethical standards.
"There's a new sheriff in town," she said. "I'm going to open the windows wide in the State Capitol, and we're going to let the sun shine in."
Perdue says that she will improve and build upon the work she's done as lieutenant governor for the past eight years and as a state legislator for 14 years, including a three-term stint as a top budget writer.
Responding to ads run by the Republican Governors Association that labeled her "Status Quo Bev," Perdue said that voters she met across the state "understood that I've been fighting the status quo my whole life."
Perdue said that all North Carolinians would need to pull together to get through the challenges facing the state.
"After today, there are no Republicans and independents. We're are all North Carolinians," the governor-elect said. "North Carolina, we are going to look the future in the face; we're going to look together."
Perdue also struck a personal note in her acceptance speech, recalling her deceased parents.
"Neither of my parents graduated from high school," she said. "I bet they are up there tonight, saying, 'You go, girl! You go, Bev.'"
Turnout key to winning race
The electoral map showed an east-west split that had been expected between the seven-term Charlotte mayor and former state legislator from New Bern. McCrory had pulled closer as returns came in from the western part of North Carolina, while Perdue was deriving the majority of her support from the Triangle and eastern North Carolina.
Perdue got a surprising amount of support from Mecklenburg County, McCrory's home territory, however. Preliminary results showed her edging him out, 194,664 votes to 192,873.
Garrett Perdue, the lieutenant governor's son, said Tuesday that he had been campaigning in Charlotte for six weeks.
McCrory had sought to break a jinx that has kept Charlotte candidates losing in eastern North Carolina, from popular Mayor Eddie Knox in 1984 to Richard Vinroot in 2004. He would have been the first Republican governor since Gov. Jim Martin left the office in 1992.
Perdue also gained a boost from the state's 2.6 million early voters, of which Democrats comprised 52 percent, according to the state Board of Elections said.
McCrory later said that he agreed that the strong showing of Barack Obama's campaign for president in North Carolina made it difficult for him to win.
"I think we got caught up a tidal wave. We did extremely well. I don't know what the final percentages are ... it's going to end up being pretty close," he said. "I'm not going to drag this thing out. And I want to give the new governor the stage."
McCrory has one year left on his term as Charlotte mayor. He hasn't said whether he plans to run for a record eighth term, but a Democratic member of the Charlotte City Council has already announced plans to run for mayor.
Perdue thanked supporters for "registering in record numbers."
"Across North Carolina, many of you looked at me and you said, 'Bev, will my vote matter? You asked me if one person can make a difference. You've (been) answered tonight,'" Perdue told her supporters in Raleigh. "Yes, we matter, and yes, we care about the future. We are going to make a fresh start in North Carolina."