- Associated Press - Thursday, January 26, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Bev Perdue said Thursday she will not seek re-election because she fears a fight with Republicans over public education would become too political.

But she also entered the election year with some baggage: a campaign finance investigation, sagging poll numbers and worries from fellow Democrats that she would drag them down in a key battleground state for President Obama.

Mrs. Perdue, the state’s first female governor, rode into office partly on the coattails of Mr. Obama’s surprise 2008 victory in North Carolina. Her departure creates a wide-open primary in a state the Obama team sees as so vital that Democrats are hosting their national convention in Charlotte in September.

The former schoolteacher said her decision was about protecting public education from spending cuts by the Republican-led legislature. She said in highly partisan times, her re-election bid would “only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools.”

“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 inflicted by a legislative majority with the wrong priorities,” Mrs. Perdue said in a statement.

The statement made no mention of what Mrs. Perdue, 65, planned to do. Perdue campaign spokesman Marc Farinella said the governor declined to speak to reporters Thursday because she is spending time with her family after making “this very difficult decision.”

“For now she wants her statement to speak for itself,” he said.

Mrs. Perdue’s decision caught many by surprise and means it will be the first time a sitting North Carolina governor has failed to be elected to a second term since voters gave chief executives authority to succeed themselves in the 1970s.

“It is really uncommon for a sitting governor to have the opportunity to run for re-election to not do so, even in a harsh political climate,” said Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. “But an objective analysis of the political situation suggests she’d have an extremely uphill fight for re-election.”

Mrs. Perdue faced a tough rematch against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican she narrowly defeated in 2008 in the state’s closest gubernatorial contest since 1972. Polling throughout her term has consistently shown her approval ratings hovering around 40 percent.

As word of her exit spread, several candidates said they were considering jumping into the fray, and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, another Democrat elected in 2008, announced he would run. Mr. Dalton had nearly $600,000 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

Democratic state Rep. Bill Faison, a Perdue critic, said he’ll make an announcement soon, setting up a May 8 primary. He said prominent leaders in the party worried for weeks about Mrs. Perdue’s low poll numbers and had suggested she not run.

Former state Treasurer Richard Moore, who lost to Mrs. Perdue in the 2008 primary, and Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, also are considering bids. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx also said he’s considering a bid.

Candidate filing begins Feb. 13.

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