Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dems out, Dems in: N.C. Democrats go crazy in a day

Posted By on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM

  • Perdue
Thursday was one of the wildest days in modern North Carolina political history. The morning started off with the news that Rep. Brad Miller, a hero of progressive netroots activists, would not seek reelection. Redistricting cruelly forced Miller into the same polling area as Rep. David Price, a fellow Democrat in the new 4th Congressional District. So, Miller wisely chose to retire from Congress rather than take on Price in a divisive primary. Then, as the dust began to settle from Miller’s announcement, news broke that Gov. Bev Perdue also will not seek reelection.

The Charlotte Observer quoted a statement she released around noon:

"The thing I care about most right now is making sure that our schools and schoolchildren do not continue to be the victims of shortsighted legislative actions and severe budget cuts," Perdue said in a statement. "Therefore, I am announcing today that I have decided not to seek re-election. I hope this decision will open the door to an honest and bipartisan effort to help our schools."

For months, rumors had swirled around the state's political scene that North Carolina’s first female governor might step aside and not run again, but as she got closer to the filing deadline, that possibility seemed less likely. Rep. Bill Faison of Orange County even came out and predicted Perdue would retire, which he thought was a good idea. But his statement drew backlash from party activists who considered Faison to be all too eager to push the governor out for his own personal ambitions.

That said, Perdue had been seen as a weak incumbent candidate by state and national Democratic Party leaders. What's more, a recent poll by North Carolina’s Public Policy Polling showed Perdue to be one of the most vulnerable and unpopular current governors in the nation, and trailing Charlotte's former mayor, Republican Pat McCrory, by double digits in a rematch race.

Perdue’s unpopularity was somewhat surprising. Though North Carolina still has an unemployment rate above the national average, things do seem to be getting better, and party activists who were initially skeptical about Perdue warmed up to her when she held firm against a rare Republican majority in the General Assembly.

Still, Perdue was never able to build a solid political brand or connect with average North Carolinians in a visceral way like a Jim Hunt or a Jesse Helms. Now that she will end her political career with only one term in the governor’s mansion, the next ten months are sure to be anything but boring for state politics.

Lt. Gov. Dalton
  • Lt. Gov. Dalton
As if that weren't enough for one day, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton announced later in the day that he will run for the top spot in Raleigh. Other names about which political watchers are speculating include Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, Congressman Heath Shuler, Faison and Miller. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has already confirmed that he will pass on the race to run for reelection to his current office.

It's unlikely Foxx will take on the race with his already busy plate for the Democratic National Convention. Bowles is said to be testing waters but has already lost two statewide races for Senate and would not be a strong candidate. With Miller not seeking another term in the House, he becomes the obvious choice for state progressives but that switch seems unlikely. For now, it looks like we can expect a Dalton-Faison primary in the governor’s race unless there are unforeseen developments.

With Dalton running for governor, also expect things to heat up in the race to replace him. Names being thrown around for that slot include state Rep. Grier Martin, and former State Sen. Cal Cunningham. Cunningham is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is widely considered to be a rising star in the Democratic Party.

So the primary in May will now be very important for several races on the Democratic side. This is good news for opponents of North Carolina Amendment One, a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. North Carolina is the only southern state to lack such a ban, and with liberals fired up about the primary for governor this can only bode well for their chances of defeating the amendment.

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