11/02/08 — Understanding us: Reform is tempting, but this area needs representation

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Understanding us: Reform is tempting, but this area needs representation

It won’t be easy tapping a Democrat to take over as governor.

There are so many reasons to go the other way — failed mental health reform, crumbling highways (two and counting) as well as numerous examples of members of the leadership who did not quite get that there is something wrong with taking money under the table or not paying their fair share of taxes.

That alone would make anyone run for a “change” candidate.

And Pat McCrory is that. He is vowing to head up to Raleigh to clean it up and to get North Carolina back to fiscal responsibility and state programs that work.

He also promises a renewed focus on economic development, promising prosperity and jobs.

It is tempting simply to call for change.

After all, most of North Carolina’s major papers are endorsing McCrory.

And that is precisely the reason why we suggest you consider Bev Perdue.

She might have been lieutenant governor during the debacle that has become Democratic rule in North Carolina, but she made no bones about her displeasure over the way her party has conducted itself these last few years — even going so far as to share her own experience dealing with former House Speaker Jim Black and his assurances that he was innocent.

“He lied to me,” she said, emphatically, in response to our question.

And we think that says something.

Why would this paper suggest that she is the best choice for governor when so many others are tapping McCrory?

Their main premise? That he has the skills and perspective necessary from his years as an urban mayor to get this state moving forward economically and an eye to developing strong and vibrant cities.

Sounds good, right?

Well, if you are an eastern North Carolina voter, you might not be so willing to jump on that bandwagon.

One of the criticisms that has been levied at the current Democratic governor is that he does not seem to be able to find this part of the state — or any other part other than Raleigh for that matter.

And while that might make a funny dinner party joke, when you are deciding for whom you will cast your vote in the gubernatorial contest, it should give you pause.

What we need in Raleigh is a governor who understands that North Carolina’s future is as much tied into its farms, small cities and rural communities as it is into the hustle and bustle of its major cities.

We need someone who knows that we need roads, water systems, better schools and highway access. We need a governor who will represent all of North Carolina when it comes to economic development dollars and be ready to promote interest in all portions of the state — not just the major cities.

We need someone who has been around the legislature and knows how to get things done — who will not have a learning curve.

And, most importantly, we need a governor who gets that the military bases and the industries they could spawn are the lifeblood for many of the communities in which they reside — and who will make it a priority to protect them.

We need someone who has been through the Base Realignment and Closure Commission process and is prepared to help this state navigate the next one.

And right now, that person is Bev Perdue.

She isn’t as flashy as McCrory and she does not have the same “throw the bums out” appeal as a candidate, but she does have ideas — a focus on education, a plan for its future and an understanding of the issues we will face in communities of all sizes.

Her ideas on developing “green industries” and her solid knowledge of the needs of the military community as well as her role in helping the state protect its military bases are several of the reasons she would be a governor whose priorities will reflect those of this portion of the state.

And we will continue to need someone who “gets us” as state and federal dollars continue to shrink and programs have to compete for attention in Raleigh.

McCrory does have some good ideas, but they are not as firm, not as defined and not as relevant to the part of the state that does not align itself with a major city — and whose constituents need to hear more than just vague acknowledgements that something needs to be done.

He gives the impression that there is a reason he appeals to big city voters — that’s where his focus has been for seven mayoral terms.

Perdue came with a plan — an outline of priorities — and spoke most fervently on issues that matter most to this area’s residents — economic and infrastructure development, protecting this state’s military bases and developing industry related to them, improving education and tax relief.

And she seems to know how to get here.

It would be easy to dismiss Perdue as just another cog in the wheel of corruption and political embarrassment that has marked the last few years of Democratic rule in Raleigh. After so many stories of so many ethics concerns, the urge is to toss out those who were in charge when the first reports started coming.

But Perdue seems to be genuine in her promises to avoid the pitfalls of her boss — and predecessor.

She has promised to make more than the usual effort to be in every one of the counties that make up North Carolina at least once a year and to respond quickly and aggressively to their concerns.

She has also vowed to check up regularly on state employees — keeping her eyes open for incidences of waste and mismanagement.

She was there for the debacle that has become the “reformed” mental health system.

She was there when her fellow Democrats stunk up the statehouse.

But in the end, it will likely be Bev Perdue who remembers where she came from, who she has worked beside for so many years and, more importantly, that there is life outside of the big city cloverleafs.

And for Wayne County, that is the best recommendation for the person who would be the next governor.

So while we acknowledge Pat McCrory’s success in Charlotte and his willingness to take the lead in offering North Carolinians new ideas and new perspectives on how state government should be run, for us, the gubernatorial candidate who will represent eastern North Carolina best is Bev Perdue.

Published in Editorials on November 2, 2008 8:54 PM