WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Jim Hunt knows a little something about politics in North Carolina. His 16 years in office are the most of any Tar Heel governor. It’s why many politicians in the state, including Gov. Bev Perdue, look at him as a mentor.
On the day Perdue announced she would not seek a second term as governor, Gov. Hunt was in Wilmington for a conference. We spoke one-on-one with him today about his protege’s big decision.
Q: What do you think of her decision?
A: “That’s a decision she had to make. That’s a personal decision. She’s done a lot of good work, especially for education in this state. I think we should be grateful to her for all that she’s done. I certainly am. She helped me get Smart Start underway. She’s helped us fund education in every level. She’s really stood up for it. I’m proud of the work she’s done, and she’s made this decision. Now we move on, and we’ll still have a good race for governor.”
Q: How difficult a decision do you think it was for her?
A: “Agonizing. Agonizing. She was really torn. I don’t know all the details, but I know that she really wanted to do it, but she saw how tough it was going to be. There are other things I know she’d like to do in her life. So I think at a time like this, you just say to somebody, ‘Thank you. Appreciate the good work you’ve done, even if I disagree with you on some things. We wish you good luck, and now let’s go find other people that may run for governor. We’ll pick the best one.'”
Q: Did you advise her on the decision?
A: “Not really. Now as I look back, realize that some things we talked about might have figured into it. I didn’t advise her as to whether or not to run.”
Q: Now that it’s an open race, who do you think will be the best candidates?
A: “I haven’t any idea, but there’ll be plenty of people who are willing to be considered and probably run hard.”
Q: How much has changed in the political climate since you were governor, especially with the Republican legislature, which she said was a factor?
A: “As a Democratic governor, I had four years of Republican legislators, and I got along with them pretty well. You know, some differences of opinion. I think things have become a lot more partisan all across the country. It’s almost toxic in Washington, and it’s been pretty tough here. Maybe this is a time when maybe everybody kinda back off a bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s get along together more. Let’s talk together more. Let’s try to figure out where we can agree on things and move forward.”
Q: What advice do you have for whoever is the next governor of North Carolina?
A: “Make education No. 1, reform it so it works better and go for the funds we need to have in order to do it well, ’cause it’s the key to jobs and our future.
Q: What will Bev Perdue’s legacy be?
A: “It will be as an education governor who worked her head off and under whom an awful lot of new industries have been announced. Almost one a day she was announcing around this state. And so I think she’ll have a good legacy.”
Q: Do you think this overshadows it?
A: “No. Do not.”