by David Anderson
Local residents, learning of Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision Thursday to not seek a second term, bemoaned the loss of a governor they considered a champion of Kinston and Eastern North Carolina.
“I just hope that the next governor of North Carolina will be as equally concerned and fair for Eastern North Carolina, because that’s extremely important for us,” said downtown businessman John Marston.
Marston and his wife Lucy, who serves as Lenoir County’s tourism director, have known Perdue for many years.
“Lucy and I both consider Bev a very good friend, and a very fair and concerned individual in all aspects of government for North Carolina,” Marston said.
Perdue announced Thursday she would not seek a second term because of what she called “highly partisan times.”
The governor said in a statement released by her office that “it is clear to me that my race for re-election will only further politicize the fight to adequately fund our schools. A re-election campaign in this already decisive environment will make it more difficult to find any bipartisan solutions.”
The New Bern resident has ties to Kinston and Lenoir County stretching back nearly 30 years when she ran for the N.C. House in the mid-1980s.
Former Mayor O.A. “Buddy” Ritch Jr., his late wife MaryMac and Mansfield Creech, who was on the Kinston City Council at the time, took Perdue around town when she made her first run for the House.
“We helped her with just everything we could, because we had heard so much about her caring for the people in Eastern North Carolina, so we introduced her around and our friendship started from there,” Ritch recalled.
Ritch said Perdue was always accessible to folks in the region, “and she would return your telephone calls; there was no trouble getting to her.”
While Marston and Ritch praised Perdue for focusing on Eastern North Carolina a great deal more than previous governors, the Democratic chief executive has clashed with the Republicans in the legislature on taxes, budgeting, voter ID and many other policies.
Those clashes have filtered down to the local level, as well.
“I think her announcement today is probably one of the best things that’s happened to North Carolina in the last four years,” said Kinston’s Republican mayor, B.J. Murphy. “We still need jobs, we still need roads fixed, we just plain need leadership in North Carolina, and I think she saw the writing on the wall.”
Lenoir County Commissioner J. Mac Daughety, also a Republican, praised Perdue for her attention to the eastern part of the state, though.
“Although I disagree with them on a lot of issues philosophically, her administration, particularly the transportation folks and the economic development folks, have been very helpful, very supportive of us in Eastern North Carolina and we hope that whoever is the next governor, they will be as helpful in helping us get the transportation infrastructure and the economic development support that we need,” Daughety said.
A number of names swirled about Thursday as possible Democratic candidates.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton announced he planned to run.
“I believe that our future economy and better jobs depend on our historic commitment to education,” Dalton stated in a press release emailed to reporters late in the afternoon. “After all, education is in North Carolina’s DNA — it’s what sets us apart and it’s what will determine our future.”
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.