Gov. Bev Perdue did not seek re-election to a second term, she said, because she wanted to focus her attention and energy in 2012 on education reform and running a gubernatorial campaign might politicize those desires.
The truth is — and this is far from a secret — she opted against running because it was a race she could not win. Faced with low approval ratings and probes into alleged illegal activity by members of her campaign (several have been indicted), she opted against what would surely have been an unsuccessful re-election bid.
Ironically, she may have been the person in the state who most politicized education reform and funding in the state over the past year. She refused to compromise with state lawmakers in many areas, insisted on increasing education funding regardless of the effect on the already stressed state budget (as if funding schools existed in a vacuum apart from the rest of state expenditures), and constantly pandered to teachers’ groups.
Now, just weeks before she is to leave office, Perdue is playing politics again, this time in filling a vacancy on the state supreme court. Those seats are filled by general election, but if a sitting justice retires during an active term, the governor appoints a replacement to hold the seat until the next general election. Patricia Timmons-Goodson is retiring Dec. 17, even though her seat isn’t up for general election until 2014.
In 2011 Gov. Perdue issued an executive order requiring the governor to fill such a vacancy from a list of candidates supplied by the North Carolina Judicial Nominating Commission. Perdue, seemingly to her credit, created that body as a way to vet supreme court candidates — to recommend such appointments based on qualifications and not political affiliation.
At the time it seemed Perdue was making that rare step toward depoliticizing a key process.
On Nov. 28, Timmons-Goodson announced her decision to retire, and the nominating commission told the governor it did not have time to study and offer a recommendation before Perdue’s term ends on Jan. 10.
The statesman (or woman)-like thing would have been to allow the commission to continue its work, eventually reaching a recommendation it could give to Pat McCrory once he takes office. Instead, Perdue showed herself for what she is, a partisan, me-first politician who has very little of the public good at heart. She issued an executive order countering her earlier executive order, essentially gutting the nominating commission and telling all she would make the appointment before leaving office. Many media accounts speculate she will appoint a Democrat, regardless of qualifications, as one last defiant act of partisanship.
Perdue has shown herself to be short-sighted and single-minded during her term in office, making statements and taking actions designed to make herself look good politically with little regard to the long-term consequences to be suffered by the state’s residents. Many of those actions had the opposite effect, driving voters away from her, eventually torpedoing any hope of a second term.
We would have hoped that in her final days the governor would exhibit some level of non-partisan leadership. It is not too late — we hope she reverses course one more time and allows McCrory, the person North Carolina voters chose for decisions like this, to be the one to fill this vacancy.