Herald-Sun editorial: New leadership, many challenges in governor’s office

Dec. 30, 2012 @ 07:34 AM

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue is about to leave office. In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, she reflected on her four years in the governor’s mansion, with the most prominent talking points emerging centered on her not regretting her decision not to run for re-election, and that she leaves the state better than she found it.

Perdue, a Democrat, is to be replaced by Republican Pat McCrory, who lost a close election race to Perdue in 2008.

She also leaves office with low approval ratings and a state governmental system in firm control of the Republicans, who won majorities in the 2010 elections and cemented their dominance through redistricting.

Perdue and the Democrats raised sales taxes and income taxes in 2009 in order to close budget gaps, and Republicans made political hay by criticizing those decisions. Perdue’s stature also suffered with scandals that led to campaign aides and donors being charged with crimes.

It is a mixed legacy that will be left by Perdue, the first woman to serve as North Carolina governor. A full accounting and evaluation of that legacy is best left to the future; we are still too close to her four-year term to provide the perspective necessary to be completely fair.

We do have a state economy that has made some small strides, but unemployment is still high statewide, at more than 9 percent. It could be that Perdue helped to blunt the recession’s effects.

She also points to “modest” investments in education and business development as successes of her tenure.

McCrory faces a number of challenges as he begins his term. He arrives after a decisive win over the current lieutenant governor, Walter Dalton. He has begun to assemble a staff as the transition gets under way. Just as Perdue’s tenure was far from quiet, so McCrory’s has also not been without controversy. One of his early decisions, to appoint conservative donor and former legislator Art Pope as deputy budget director, has already drawn the ire of Democrats who point to Pope as a polarizing force in state politics.

Perdue said in her interview that she feels “I could have won had I run” against McCrory. It is hard to know what effect a decision to seek re-election might have had on the state’s political and economic future. Another one for the historians to figure out at a later date.