RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina's Governor Bev Perdue has officially announced that she will not seek re-election for governor later this year.
Within several hours of making her announcement, Lt. Governor Walter Dalton said he would seek the governor's slot while Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx only said he was considering his political future.
In a statement released on Thursday at 12:01 p.m., the first-term Perdue said "I am announcing today that I have decided not to seek re-election."
In the four paragraph statement, Perdue said that she was not one to back down from tough fights, but stated that "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.
WEB EXTRA: Read Gov Bev Perdue's full statement here
"And it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools."
While the governor says the decision is about funding education, at least one Republican leader has his doubts.
"I think the true reason is that her popularity is the lowest of any incumbent Governor in the nation," House Majority Leader Paul Stam told WBTV. "I think the leaders of the Democratic Party decided they could not go into this election season with her at the head."
Perdue, swept into office with President Obama in 2008, has not been an extremely popular governor in recent polls and she has had some controversy about promises allegedly not kept. At one point she implied that I-485 around Charlotte would be completed much sooner than it actually will be.
"Whether we agree with her politics or not, we all should respect her for her commitment to North Carolina over these many years," said House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican representing Mecklenburg County.
"Republicans in the General Assembly have disagreed deeply with the Governor over many issues, but I am hopeful we can find opportunities in her remaining time in office to work on legislative matters that will become a part of her legacy, and do so for the good of all North Carolinians."
Gov. Perdue believes that her decision to not run for re-election will open the door to a bipartisan effort to help North Carolina schools.
"I know that this was an intensely personal choice for her. While we are disappointed, we understand and respect her decision," North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker stated. "Make no mistake about it, the Democratic Party will have no trouble selecting a strong gubernatorial candidate and we are confident we will win the governor's race next November."
News of Gov. Perdue's announcement was first reported widely by The Washington Post, which quoted two sources familiar with the plan for the Democratic Governor.
On Thursday afternoon, United States President Barack Obama stated that Perdue, the first woman to serve as North Carolina's Lieutenant Governor and Governor, has never been afraid to break barriers.
"For over 25 years, she has fought for the people of the Tar Heel State – working to transform the state's public schools, improve the health care system, protect and attract jobs for members of the military and their families, and create the jobs of the future," President Obama said in a statement. "Michelle and I want to congratulate Governor Perdue on her historic tenure, and we wish Bev and her family well in the future."
Perdue, who is the host governor for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, was set for a rematch of her 2008 race with Republican and former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory, who said Wednesday that he will officially announce his gubernatorial run January 31 in Greensboro.
"My message has been and will continue to be that we must fix our broken government and broken economy and put our North Carolina resources back to work," McCrory released in a statement on his website Thursday afternoon.
His campaign will kick off the next day, he said.
According to the Public Policy Poll results released last week, Perdue was trailing McCrory, her likely candidate, by double digits for the second straight month.
McCrory lead Perdue 52-41 in a head-to-head matchup, slightly worse for Perdue than last month when McCrory led 50-40.
"Bev Perdue's chances have taken a step back over the last three months," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling said January 17. "In September and October, she got her deficit against Pat McCrory down to 4-5 points. But since November she's gone back to trailing by 9-11 points. The one thing she has going for her is that the Legislature is even less popular, and running against their actions may provide her a path to victory."
The results of the PPP results were from polling of North Carolina voters from early January.
Perdue had been scheduled to speak at the North Carolina Public Health Directors Conference on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. in Raleigh, but canceled the appearance around 10:15 a.m. Thursday morning.
"I have been a complete supporter of Governor Perdue," Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Aisha Dew told WBTV "It's not something you like to hear, but as Democrats we'll pull together."
Dew told WBTV the she has not heard if anyone within the Democratic Party had urged Perdue not to seek re-election. She has not spoken with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who has been listed as a possible replacement candidate by Politico.com
Sources said Perdue has labored over her decision about whether to seek a second term.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) released a statement on Thursday morning, shortly after the reports began circulating.
"It's now clear that the past four years of having a Democratic governor in North Carolina have been a failure," RGA Executive Director Phil Cox stated. "North Carolina's lost ground to its neighbors, and now has the worst unemployment rate in the region. It's never been more clear that North Carolina needs a Republican governor who will bring fresh ideas and a new perspective to the governor's office.
"As governor, Bev Perdue continues to set the Democrat agenda in Raleigh, which now includes a massive, job-crushing sales tax hike," Cox continued. "No matter how hard they try, whoever emerges as the Democratic Party's successor to Bev Perdue won't be able to run from the Democrats' record of higher taxes and disappointing job losses."
Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Chair Aisha Dew said that she expects in the days ahead a strong list of democratic candidates will emerge as possible replacements.
Names that have been touted by Politico.com include Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.
Mayor Foxx released a statement on Thursday afternoon about his political future.
"Governor Beverly Perdue deserves our gratitude for guiding our state in very difficult times, and for being a good friend to the City of Charlotte. Her decision not to run for re-election came as a surprise to me," Mayor Foxx said. "I remain focused on Charlotte and the substantial work ahead. I will spend the coming weeks talking with my family and friends about how I could best serve our city and state, and I ask the public and media for some patience as I work through those conversations."
North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton was less vague about his plans.
"I'm announcing that I am running for Governor. Lucille and I love this state and we understand tough political races," Lt. Governor Dalton said. "I am the only candidate who has run and won statewide and I look forward to waging an aggressive campaign."
Related article: Lt. Gov. Dalton to run for NC Governor
Dalton said Republican candidate Pat McCrory would be the wrong direction for North Carolina as governor.
"Pat McCrory and the Republican leadership are facing the wrong way by cutting teachers, reducing scholarships and abandoning economic development," Dalton said. "They are doing lasting damage to our state. I've dedicated my career to improving education at all levels and making North Carolina a great place to do business. "
On the opposite side of the political fence, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper immediately said in a press release that he was not interested in running for Governor.
"I am honored to serve as Attorney General and plan to file for re-election in that office to continue my work keeping people safe and moving North Carolina forward," Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a statement.
A state representative from Orange County was heard on the radio Thursday morning talking about Perdue's reported announcement and her possible challenger Pat McCrory.
"I will have an announcement to make," Representative Bill Faison said. "But today is Governor Perdue's day."
When he spoke with WBTV's David Whisenant, Faison laid out the reasons he believes he would be the only viable person for the job - if he is, in fact, going to run for governor.
"I'm the only candidate, if I'm a candidate, and that's for an announcement yet to come, but I'm
the only person with a plan with a platform that's already out there who presented the issues weeks ago," Faison told WBTV.
"I've been traveling around the state speaking to them and I've been presenting to people in the state and to groups in the state," Faison continued. "So I am four or five months ahead of anyone in the state who might be considering this."
Longtime Guilford County Representative Maggie Jeffus told WBTV that she is disappointed with Perdue's decision.
"I think she's doing a good job." Jeffus told WBTV. "She came into office at a very difficult time, and a very difficult economic time. She had a very difficult budget and there have been a lot of issues she has helped with her vetoes."
Representatives from media organizations from across the country camped out at the Governor's Mansion just two blocks from the Legislative Building. Governor Perdue did not come out, but simply let her statement do all of her speaking.
Another high-ranking Democrat is also reportedly not seeking re-election in 2012. North Carolina Representative Brad Miller announced on his website Thursday morning that he will not run again this year.
"I wanted you to hear from me that I will not seek another term in Congress," Miller announced.
Miller, a five-time member of the U.S. House, is a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
The 13th District Congressman said North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature destroyed his district when they redrew voting maps in July.
"I knew Republicans in the legislature would dismantle the district that I have represented for the last decade, and they did," Miller said in a statement posted on his website Thursday morning. "The thirteenth district was split six ways. I also knew that they would create one packed Democratic district in the Triangle, so that all the surrounding districts would be Republican, and they did."
"Bev Perdue has been, and will continue to be, an outstanding Governor. She has fought to create jobs and protect funding for our children and our public schools," NCDP Chairman Parker said in a statement after Perdue's announcement on Thursday.
"Her leadership – and her willingness to make tough decisions -- has kept our state afloat during the toughest economic times since the Great Depression. Because of her efforts, companies have created nearly 90,000 jobs, and made investments worth more than $19 billion here in North Carolina."