Perdue leaves office after tough four years

By Scott Mooneyham | Dec 20, 2012

RALEIGH -- Beverly Perdue came into office as North Carolina's 73rd governor making history as the first woman elected to the office.

She will leave office in a couple of weeks making history again, although not the kind that she had envisioned for herself when taking office four years ago.

Perdue becomes the first in the office since the state began allowing governors to succeed themselves to neither seek nor win a second term.

In that single term, she has been dogged with poor job performance poll numbers, with more of the state's electorate disapproving than approving of her handling of the job.

Of course, those numbers help explain why she shocked at least a part of the North Carolina political establishment last January when she decided not to run for a second term.

It is difficult to assess Perdue's term in office without acknowledging that she assumed the governorship in a difficult time, just after the financial collapse and amid the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.

No one will ever know what her term of office will have looked like in a more prosperous time.

Nonetheless, politicians can and will be defined by the events and circumstances around them. To be successful, they can't be overwhelmed by them.

Perdue's indecisiveness -- whether regarding budget issues like state worker layoffs and furloughs, tax reform or government ethics -- hurt her standing with the public.

That is a shame.

Perdue came into office wanting to try to encourage small business growth and entrepreneurship. She had been around state government, as both a legislator and lieutenant governor, long enough to understand that small business is where job growth really occurs.

But with state government basically broke, it became difficult to mount any kind of grand vision to do any of that.

So, instead, she became to be seen by the public as the governor who wanted to raise taxes.

Perdue also clearly wanted to be, and was, more involved than her predecessor, Mike Easley, as a political presence in the state and as a problem-solver at the state agency level.

She knew that there were some long-festering problems within state agencies, and some of those she was able to address. Perdue did, for example, reorganize and consolidate state agencies involved with criminal justice.

And despite some missteps, she did put more government accountability and ethics safeguards in place.

What she will also be remembered for is something that occurred, not when she was governor, but during her two terms as lieutenant governor: Perdue, as the presiding officer in the state Senate, broke the tie vote that allowed the lottery in North Carolina.

All governors inevitably make history of one kind or another, and Perdue is no exception. .

It will be up to historians to judge the exact nature of that history, and how much she was a victim of circumstance and how much of her political fate was of her own making.