Two incumbent North Carolina Democrats have bowed out of their respective 2012 contests.
Gov. Bev Perdue and Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C. announced their decisions not to run for re-election Tuesday. Both cited a highly-politicized campaign season as a factor in their decisions.
Perdue chose not to seek office again because it could worsen the partisan divide, particularly regarding education in North Carolina, according to a statement issued by her campaign Tuesday.
“We live in highly partisan times, where some people seem more worried about scoring political points than working together to address the real challenges our state faces,” Perdue said. “A re-election campaign in this already divisive environment will make it difficult to find any more bipartisan solutions.”
Redrawn congressional districts played a roll in Miller’s decision to refrain from running for re-election. Miller faced a tough primary election with Rep. David Price, D-N.C. in the newly-redrawn fourth district. The new lines would give Price an advantage because he represents a significant portion of his original constituency, and Miller would face an uphill battle to convince voters in those areas, according to a press release Tuesday.
“I have begun campaigns in the past as the underdog, and campaigned with great energy, enthusiasm and joy,” Miller said. “There would be no joy in this campaign.”
Miller noted that he would not run for re-election in two years when Price might retire. He would lose committee assignments and influence in his time away from Congress.
The governor stands aside
Although Perdue cited partisanship as her reason for withdrawing from the race, other factors may have played a role in her decision.
Perdue’s approval rating stood at 32 percent according to a poll by Public Policy Polling Jan. 17. Her campaign also faced setbacks after three aides were indicted on felony charges in November for breaking campaign finance rules.
These circumstances may have led the Democratic National Committee to pressure her to stand aside, said Michael Munger, chair of the political science department and Perdue’s Libertarian opponent in the 2008 gubernatorial election.
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“They don’t want a candidate who is going to hold [President Barack Obama] back,” Munger said. “Bev Perdue is a clown—she should have never been governor. The only reason she won was the tsunami of Obama’s campaign in North Carolina.”
But the unpopularity of an incumbent governor would not likely affect an incumbent president, said Pope McCorkle, visiting lecturer at the Sanford School of Public Policy, who worked as a consultant with Perdue’s 2008 campaign.
“[Perdue] had a better shot of winning than is commonly assumed,” McCorkle said. “She got more votes than Obama in 2008. The idea that her victory is solely attributable to Obama doesn’t hold water.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party is confident that it will find a viable candidate who can win the governor’s seat in 2012, party chairman David Parker said.
A new face for governor
Following the announcement of Perdue’s decision, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, a Democrat, declared he will run for governor.
“I am the only candidate who has run and won statewide, and I look forward to waging an aggressive campaign,” Dalton said in a statement. “Elections are about choices—I choose progress.”
A strong public education system is critical to future economic growth in North Carolina, Dalton noted. Proposals by former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory and other Republicans to cut funding would cause lasting damage to the state, he said.
McCrory also plans to formally announce his candidacy for governor next week.
“We must fix our broken government and put our North Carolina resources back to work,” McCrory, who was defeated by Perdue in 2008, said in a statement Tuesday.
McCrory’s loss in 2008 will hurt his chances of winning in 2012, McCorkle noted.
“McCrory is a one-time loser who has become very partisan,” McCorkle said. “He does not have a lock on the governorship—it’s still a open book.”
If the Democratic candidate maintains the fundraising advantage Perdue had in 2008, then they have a reasonable chance of winning, Munger noted. But it is still unclear whether major donors, including corporations, will match their 2008 contributions to the party.