What was Bev Perdue thinking?

at 03:45 PM ET, 09/28/2011

On Tuesday, during a Q & A at a rotary club meeting, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D) made a very odd suggestion. Asked what she could do to turn around the economy, Perdue gave a rambling, two-minute answer that included this tidbit:

“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. You want people who don't worry about the next election.”


Gov. Bev Perdue speaks at a press conference in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, April 17, 2011. Perdue toured six counties to see storm damage following a series of severe storms and tornadoes. (Takaaki Iwabu - AP)

The governor’s staff said she was joking, but listening to the audio, it doesn’t sound much like a joke. Later, spokeswoman Chris Mackey called it “hyperbole.”

The governor of North Carolina, of course, has no ability to suspend elections. The only way congressional elections could be nixed would be by constitutional amendment. And that’s not going to happen.

“I don’t even know if she knows she doesn’t have the power to suspend elections,” said former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory (R) who is planning a challenge Perdue after narrowly losing to her in 2008. But, he added, “The more disturbing part about her comment is her asking her staff to now say it’s a joke. ... It sounded like very serious, unhinged, unscripted sentiment that she either has to own up to or say she made a mistake.”

While Perdue may be bunkered in until the story blows over — her office did not return several calls for comment — it’s not clear that it wil disappear all that quickly, particularly because she has made a series of high-profile stumbles.

In February, an FBI memo showed that Perdue had lied about using her political influence to advance the trooper career of a friend when she served in the state senate. In April, when scores of tornadoes hit the state, there was no word from the governor for hours and Perdue’s staffers gave different accounts of her whereabouts.

“We exist in a world today, particularly in an internet world, where this kind of thing can go viral and can cause you damage way behind the significance of what you said,” said Gary Pearce, a long-time adviser to former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt (D).

Perdue is already behind McCrory in most polls, although there’s been little reliable polling on the race to date.

She did get good marks from constituents for her handling of Hurricane Irene, but she’s still viewed as an underdog in this race. And this latest incident certainly doesn’t help. At all.

 
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