RALEIGH — State Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh said Tuesday that he is seriously considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.
Blue, the first African-American House speaker in modern Southern history, said he has been approached by supporters about running since Gov. Bev Perdue's surprise announcement that she would not seek re-election.
"I have talked to scores of people and given some thought to it and some analysis," Blue said in an interview. "It's a pretty significant undertaking, and you just don't dash in to it."
If Blue should decide to enter the race, he would likely be a significant factor in the May 8 Democratic primary, where an estimated 30 percent of the voters would be African-American. He would likely be a strong contender to get into a June 26 primary runoff, which would be held if no candidate wins 40 percent, said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University.
"Obviously, it is a pretty storied name for those who watch North Carolina politics closely," Taylor said. "Given the nature of the field currently, you'd have to say he'd have fairly good prospects."
So far three Democrats have announced for the race: Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, state Rep. William Faison of Orange County and former Congressman Bob Etheridge.
Taylor noted that none of the three candidates in the race is particularly well-known, with Etheridge probably the best-known. Because most candidates tend to run on the same issues in a primary, distinguishing factors like race can often play an important role, he said.
At least two other Democrats, Congressman Brad Miller of Raleigh and former state Treasurer Richard Moore, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2008, also are closely looking at the race. Congressman Mike McIntyre of Lumberton has also expressed some interest.
Blue said he was considering a number of factors, such as his law practice and family obligations, as well as political considerations.
"Typically people spend months and years deciding when and where they will they do this - be the leader of 10 million people," Blue said. "It's not something you go about lightly."
Blue said he hoped to make a decision shortly after the beginning of the filing period, which is Monday. Blue said he wants to have a better sense of what the Democratic field will look like before deciding.
Blue, 62, was elected to the state House in 1980, serving in the House until 2002. He was elected speaker in 1991 and served in that capacity until 1994, when Republicans took control of the state House.
He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002, finishing second in the Democratic primary to Erskine Bowles.
Bowles received 44 percent; Blue, 28 percent; Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, 15 percent; and former Durham City Councilwoman Cynthia Brown, 4 percent. Blue returned to the state House in 2006 and was appointed to a Senate vacancy in 2009.
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who is also African-American, also briefly considered running for governor.
One question likely to be asked if Blue moves forward is the view of the White House, which considers North Carolina a key state in the president's re-election strategy. Would the White House want North Carolina swing voters to be confronted with a choice of voting for both a black candidate for president and a black candidate for governor?
Only one African-American has been elected governor of a Southern state: Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1990.