Updated at 1:30 p.m.
Gov. Bev Perdue's decision not to run for reelection could spark a scramble among Democrats eager to replace her. So who might step up?
Anthony Foxx? Maybe.
The Charlotte mayor and his administrative assistant have not yet returned our calls this morning, so we don't know his thinking. It's easy to dismiss the idea; Foxx is just starting his second term as mayor. So he could appear not seasoned enough to some voters. And he would of course have to wrestle with any anti-Charlotte sentiment that still lingers around the state. The N.C. political records are littered with Charlotte mayors who have failed in their run for statewide office.
More daunting than any of that, perhaps, are the odds Foxx would face. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has enjoyed a healthy lead over Perdue and he would certainly start with a sizable edge over Foxx as well.
But before eliminating Foxx from contention consider two things: 1) He's ambitious. His desire for higher office has rarely been questioned. And 2) The election is Nov. 6. That's two months after Foxx will be at the peak of his political career to this point. The Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte Sept. 3-6, will put the national spotlight on Foxx, who is leading Charlotte's convention efforts and who will almost certainly have a prominent speaking role in front of thousands of people and millions of television viewers. If he does well there, he could ride a wave of momentum that would boost him on Election Day.
1:30 p.m. update: Some readers today said that Foxx said last fall he would not run for governor this year. In fact, Foxx only said he would not challenge Perdue for governor. That pledge says nothing about what he would do if she's not running. Read our O-pinion blog post from that time.
The Democrats' strongest candidate, however, would be Charlotte's Erskine Bowles. The former UNC system president and Clinton chief of staff has been mentioned, wistfully but only half-jokingly, as a potential candidate for president. That won't happen this year, but Perdue's departure clears the way for him to run for governor. Bowles has the resume, the moderation, the political wisdom and the fundraising chops that a Democrat would need to have any chance in this race. No other potential Democratic candidate matches Bowles on all those measures. Bowles has not returned a call this morning.
Others in the wings: Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, who will almost certainly announce his candidacy in coming days. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has long failed to live up to others' aspirations for him. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton ranks No. 2 to Perdue in North Carolina's executive branch, but he would have little chance of beating McCrory. (1:30 p.m. update: News14's Tim Boyum tweets that sources tell him Dalton is getting in and could announce as soon as today.)
Public Policy Polling in Raleigh polled on this question last October. Bowles tied McCrory at 42 percent. Cooper trailed McCrory 42-39. Faison and Dalton trailed by double digits. McCrory's strength, PPP says, is with independents, who overwhelmingly like him. Those voters are crucial in this race, and Bowles would have the strongest chance of attracting them.
-- Taylor Batten
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Updated at 1:30 p.m.