GREENSBORO, NC (AP) -- Democratic state Rep. Bill Faison announced his bid for North Carolina governor on Saturday, saying he's the best candidate to restore education and health care jobs through his work in the Legislature and when he reaches the Executive Mansion next January.
Faison's decision means there will now definitely be a Democratic gubernatorial primary in May. Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton joined the race within hours of Gov. Beverly Perdue announcing Thursday she wouldn't seek a second term. At least a half-dozen other Democrats are considering whether they have the money, message and organization to win the nomination and take on likely Republican nominee Pat McCrory in November.
"I've heard the requests to step up and assume a position of leadership in the state of stepping up on the issues that matter," Faison said at a Greensboro hotel where the state Democratic Party was meeting. "I believe that what I should do ... is to step forward for the people of our state to go and run for the people for the office of governor of our state - to go and run for the office of governor for the reason of implementing solutions that matter, of making the government work for people."
Faison's entry was expected: The Orange County medical malpractice attorney had toyed with a gubernatorial bid for months and had been going around the state in campaign-style talking up a plan to raise sales taxes. He predicted in the fall that Perdue wouldn't run despite her campaign saying for months she would. Perdue was expected to speak Saturday night to the dinner crowd in her first public appearance since her surprising decision not to run for re-election.
Faison, 64, continued his verbal attacks upon Republicans. He blames them for passing a budget last June that cut hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools, the University of North Carolina system and Medicaid. He claims the budget will cost 36,000 public and private sector jobs. Republicans say those job numbers are extremely exaggerated. Republicans passed legislation in 2011 on abortion, voter identification and gay marriage.
"What they've had their focus on has been a radical social agenda of a few in their party rather than the issues that matter to all of us, which are jobs education, the economy and energy," Faison said, surrounded by four of his children and other family members.
But Faison also tried to contrast himself with Dalton, arguing he put out his "jobs plan" to raise the sales tax most people pay from 6.75 percent to 7.45 percent. He's expanded that plan to other areas, such as working to make sure every high school student has a computer or tablet and free high-speed Internet access at home.
"What I have not seen in the last five months is him or really anyone else at that level really stepping out to really come on board and help move things forward," he said. "The difference that immediately comes to mind is that not only do I listen, not only have I heard, not only have I come up with a plan that no one else has done but I'm here to implement that plan."
Dalton said Friday he supports a proposal Perdue rolled out earlier this month to raise the base sales tax to 7.5 percent temporarily, with proceeds designed to protect education. Dalton said he'd be open to other ideas but Republicans haven't offered anything else.
Faison said he would decide later whether he would give more of his personal funds to his campaign. He already said he's making a personal loan of $500,000 to his campaign. Dalton had nearly $600,000 in his campaign coffers as of Dec. 31.
Other Democrats considering a gubernatorial bid as the campaign filing period begins Feb. 13 include former state treasurer Richard Moore, current Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and ex-U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge. Many Democrats have also said they want former UNC system president Erskine Bowles to get in.
Faison, a Wake County native, went to UNC law school in Chapel Hill. He is twice divorced and has six children.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)