Perdue rallies supporters in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By Steve Huffman
Bev Perdue took a look around the Rowan County Democratic headquarters Tuesday afternoon and thanked all those who welcomed her.
Then Perdue, the Democratic candidate for governor, issued a particular word of appreciation to Steve Drinkard, treasurer of the local party.
“You have me something more substantial than a chair,” Perdue said, laughing.
When Perdue visited Salisbury in early September, she had nowhere to stand when she addressed a crowd gathered at the Democratic headquarters.
Eventually she kicked off her shoes and climbed aboard a folding chair.
It didn’t appear to be among the most stable of locations from which to speak.
So Tuesday, Drinkard made sure there wasn’t a repeat of that situation, borrowing a small wooden platform from Catawba College and hauling it to the Democratic headquarters.
Perdue climbed aboard and offered her remarks, beginning by joking that the local Democrats didn’t have to worry about her falling from a chair and breaking her neck.
Someone in the audience shouted that that wasn’t their concern, but finding a replacement for her as governor was.
The remark resulted in a round of applause from the crowd of 50 or so.
Everyone laughed. Perdue included.
She quickly turned to the matter of next week’s election where she’s pitted against Republican Pat McCrory, Charlotte’s mayor.
“The poll numbers are increasingly better,” Perdue said, referring to phone surveys that indicate the race is a close one.
Then she referred to former Gov. Jim Hunt, who has reminded her time and again that he won his first race for governor by only 11/2 percent of the votes, she said.
“All you’ve got to win by is one vote,” Perdue said.
She said that by this weekend’s end of early voting, it’s expected that more than 2 million North Carolinians will have cast ballots. That’s almost as many as voted in the entire 2004 election.
“Don’t tell me folks in this election aren’t energized and excited,” she said.
Perdue has served as lieutenant governor eight years.
State Rep. Lorene Coates, who introduced Perdue, said her background in education would make her an ideal governor.
“She’s taught in our schools,” Coates said. “She knows what goes on in our schools, which I think is so important.”
Perdue said she disagreed with McCrory on a number of issues. One, she said, was an accusation against McCrory that he felt it OK to pull funding for roads and the like from one part of the state to provide them for another .
“This is the 21st century,” Perdue said. “We’re 100 counties. We believe we all have to have a chance for success.”
Before her appearance in Salisbury, Perdue stumped at the Charlotte Biotechnology Conference at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, saying she has supported the burgeoning industry for years and understands its potential.
“I want to tell New England and the Terminator that North Carolina is coming,” she said.
North Carolina is third behind California and Massachusetts in the number of biotechnology companies.
“I want to be No. 1,” she said. She would double state funding for the One North Carolina Fund, which funds start-up companies.
She also promised to encourage new interest in North Carolina’s oldest industry√≥agriculture.
“Farmers and farmland are decreasing, but with biotechnology, we bolster agriculture and make it a 21st-century powerhouse,” she said.
Scientists can find new uses for tobacco and develop biofuels, Perdue said. They can shorten the growing season for most traditional crops and grow an acre of corn on a third of an acre of land.
The results mean higher returns for farmers and lower prices for consumers, she said.
Less than 20 years ago, most people had never heard of biotechnology. Now, North Carolina is a leader in the industry.
“We are getting something right here,” Perdue said.