Perdue’s ‘proud but frustrating’ legacy
Governor Bev Perdue will spend her final full day in office touring two schools in Onslow County. It’s a comfortable setting for the outgoing governor, who plans to focus on education and technology after she leaves office on Saturday.
And as Perdue closes this chapter in her political life, here’s how some of the state’s editorial boards are remembering her four years in office:
The Winston-Salem Journal says Perdue leaves a ‘proud but frustrating legacy’ as she departs:
‘The state’s first woman governor proved herself as able and, at times, as pugnacious as any of her male predecessors. She worked tirelessly to create jobs. She played a leading role in bringing Winston-Salem the Caterpillar plant. In countless interviews in the national press, she presented North Carolina as a progressive state open for business.
She worked passionately to improve the state’s public education system. She signed into law the Racial Justice Act, pushed by Forsyth legislators Larry Womble and Earline Parmon, that addresses racial bias in the pursuit and administration of the death penalty. She took much of the politics out of state Department of Transportation decisions. And she pushed to compensate the victims of the state’s forced sterilization program, as she told them she’d do when she ran for office.
The Democratic governor accomplished all that despite the fact that she came into the office in the depths of the recession and, for her last two years, battled the first Republican majority to control both houses of the legislature in more than 100 years.’
The Wilmington Star News notes the challenges she faced in working with the Republican-controlled legislature:
‘Handcuffed by a veto-proof Republican Senate and a House that was nearly so, Perdue often had to resort to using her position as a bully pulpit, speaking up on issues such as education, which had sustained deep cuts. If anything, her demonstrated commitment to public education will go down as her legacy.
Although she could never get Republicans to budge on the idea, she continued to push first retention, then restoration of a three-quarter-cent sales tax to help avert the deepest cuts to education. She unilaterally ordered that the state make room for more preschoolers to comply with a judge’s ruling that the state must provide programs for children at risk of starting kindergarten already behind their peers. And while economic realities scaled it down, she continued to push her “Career and College Promise,” designed to help high school students get job skills while earning their high school diplomas.
She made mistakes, as do all politicians. Some fellow Democrats considered her as weak, Republicans viewed her as irrelevant or even with contempt, as the GOP official who referred to Perdue as “the dumbest governor in America.” If one looks only at the scorecard, she might not seem a particularly effective governor. Of her 19 vetoes, the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode 11. Those battles she won were hard-fought, and likely will be short-lived.
In making her late decision not to seek a second term, she no doubt understood that the odds were not in her favor. While in office, however, she gave the job 100 percent.’
And the Greenville Daily Reflector offered this mixed assessment:
‘Operating without a strong mandate since most credited the coattails of Barack Obama for her victory, Perdue struggled with a Democratic Legislature devoid of ideas for two years before the party’s control gave way to a Republican ascendancy in the 2010 elections. Facing low public approval numbers, high unemployment and a tough re-election battle, Perdue declined to seek another term.
That is a bleak assessment of her term, though she warrants credit for mounting a passionate defense of education in the face of Republican lawmakers’ attempts to slash public school spending. Her swift and professional response after Hurricane Irene earned top marks as well.
Ultimately, however, the governor could not escape the shadows of her predecessor and her party. Perdue’s service was earnest, but history is likely to record her inability to drive progress as North Carolina’s chief executive.’