North Carolina is the biggest state with a gubernatorial election this year — and looked to be a prime opportunity for Republicans to pick up a long-held Democratic office. Now the Washington Post is reporting that incumbent Democratic governor Bev Perdue, a former lieutenant governor and state legislator, will not not seek reelection this year. Perdue is highly unpopular and proved to be, uh, less than nimble in her battles over the past year with the first Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina since the 19th century.
Former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was the Republican nominee in 2008 and almost beat Perdue even as North Carolina went strongly for Democratic U.S. senator Kay Hagan and gave its electoral votes to Barack Obama. I’d been puzzled for months about how Perdue’s campaign could manage to win in 2012, but even so, I am surprised that she has decided to bow out. Perdue has had an unbroken string of electoral victories since the 1980s.
In a sense, this isn’t great news for McCrory, likely the Republican nominee for 2012. Perdue was a weak opponent. Now he may pull a somewhat stronger one. Among the possibilities being talked about is former Clinton aide Erskine Bowles, whose fiscal-policy work with former senator Alan Simpson has drawn bipartisan kudos. Bowles recently stepped down as president of the University of North Carolina system. The Democratic primary will likely be crowded, though.