Gov. Bev Perdue (D)
Elected: 2008, term expires 2012, 1st term.
Born: Jan. 14, 1947, Grundy, VA .
Home: New Bern.
Education: U. of KY, B.A. 1969; U. of FL., M.Ed. 1974, Ph.D. 1976.
Family: Married (Bob Eaves); 2 children.
Elected office: NC House of Reps., 1986-1990; NC Senate 1990-2000; Lt. gov., 2000-08
Professional Career: Public schl. teacher; Consultant
Bev Perdue, a Democrat, was elected governor of North Carolina in 2008. Perdue grew up in the coal-mining town of Grundy in southwest Virginia, near the borders of West Virginia and Kentucky. Her father, Alfred Moore, was a coal miner, and her mother was a homemaker. Neither parent earned a high school diploma, but they were nonetheless an upwardly mobile family. Her father later became a mine owner and utility executive. Beverly Moore became the first college graduate in the family when she got her degree from the University of Kentucky. She taught kindergarten for several years and then went back to school to get advanced degrees in her field of education from the University of Florida. She also took courses in gerontology and volunteered with a local program for senior citizens. In 1975, she and her first husband moved to New Bern, an old colonial town at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in east North Carolina, where she worked as a geriatric health care consultant at a local hospital.
|Bev Perdue (D)||2,146,189||(50%)|
|Pat McCrory (R)||2,001,168||(47%)|
|Michael Munger (Lib)||121,584||(3%)|
|Bev Perdue (D)||840,342||(56%)|
|Richard Moore (D)||594,028||(40%)|
In 1986, frustration with state government policies affecting senior citizens prompted her to run for the state House. She ran as a Democrat—Republicans seldom won east North Carolina races in those years—and was elected. In 1989, she joined other Democrats and Republicans in favor of ousting House Speaker Liston Ramsey, and then backed out on the morning of the vote. Out of favor in the House, she ran for the state Senate in 1990 and won. In 1995, she sought to become co-chair of the Appropriations Committee, with power over the state budget. Senate President Marc Basnight went to her office to give her the bad news that he was passing her over for the job. But as he listened to her describe her ideas and plans for the committee, he changed his mind and offered her the post. (A decade later Basnight named Kay Hagan to the same post, and she went on to be elected U.S. senator in 2008.) Perdue worked successfully to raise teachers’ salaries, which was her top goal, and to pass a children’s health insurance program.
In 2000, Perdue ran for lieutenant governor, an office elected separately from governor in North Carolina and one with few explicit duties. She won 64% of the vote in a four-candidate Democratic primary and won in November, 52%-46%, becoming the first female lieutenant governor in state history. She was re-elected 55%-43% in 2004. In the role, she took on assignments from Democratic Gov. Michael Easley, who made her chairman of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund Commission, where she worked to create a prescription drug benefit for seniors and to reduce smoking among young people. She also organized local communities to lobby to maintain North Carolina’s military bases.
As many in North Carolina political circles expected, Perdue decided to run for governor in 2008, when incumbent Easley was term-limited. She faced spirited competition in the Democratic primary from state Treasurer Richard Moore. She attacked Moore for investing in what she said were risky hedge funds, for increasing fees to money managers, and for raising $1.5 million in campaign funds from Wall Street and other financial interests. Moore ran an ad criticizing her 1987 vote against a bill authorizing state police to conduct investigations of secret organizations like the Ku Klux Klan—an ad that former Gov. Hunt, who had appointed Moore head of state law enforcement, said went over the line. Perdue raised some $10 million and spent most of it on the May primary. She won 56%-40%. Republicans nominated Pat McCrory, the mayor of Charlotte since 1995.
McCrory raised issues like crime, particularly gang violence, and illegal immigration. He had developed a long-range transit plan and the Lynx light rail system in Charlotte and called for a 50-year transportation plan for the state. He attacked Perdue for her “100%” opposition to offshore oil drilling in August, which many North Carolina voters supported. She backed off and said she would appoint a panel to study the issue. “I’m proud that I’m able to stand up and say, ‘Hey, the world’s changed and perhaps I need to change,’” she said. Perdue supported increasing the number of college scholarships for North Carolina students. McCrory emphasized vocational training, saying that four-year college programs did not interest all high school graduates. Endorsed by teachers’ unions grateful for her efforts in the Legislature that increased teacher salaries, Perdue criticized McCrory’s support for government vouchers for private-school tuition. McCrory called her part of the status quo and tried to link her with Democrats Jim Black, the former state House speaker, and Frank Ballance, a former North Carolina U.S. representative, who were both convicted on corruption charges. He also tried to connect her to a member of the Transportation Board who resigned after pressing Roanoke Rapids officials for contributions to Perdue’s campaign. She criticized McCrory for opposing embryonic-stem-cell research, which uses cells harvested from surplus embryos at fertility clinics.
It was a closely fought election. Perdue won 50%-47%. She clearly benefited from the voter-registration and turnout efforts of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, which targeted North Carolina. McCrory carried the Charlotte area, though narrowly losing Mecklenburg County. Perdue carried the Research Triangle and Triad areas solidly and ran far ahead on her home turf in east North Carolina. Even in a state that has had a boom economy, Perdue was facing fiscal problems when she took office in 2009. The year before, Easley had ordered agencies to cut up to 5% of their budgets.