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Atkinson KOs Perdue

by Jim Longworth

Ever since Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear, heavyweight prize fights haven’t garnered much interest around these parts. That is until last week when a champion was finally crowned in the epic bout between Gentle June Atkinson and Bully Bev Perdue.

After months of sparring, followed by a series of hardfought rounds, ring judge Robert Hobgood ruled that Atkinson had won by a knockout. It was a great victory not just for June, but also for us voters, to whom Perdue had dealt a low blow when she tried to nullify an entire election. Here’s how it all came to pass: Last November North Carolinians elected their first female governor in Beverly Perdue. Perdue was a longtime politico who narrowly defeated Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory by going negative and dodging debates. Meanwhile, over 2 million of us resoundingly voted to re-elect Dr. Atkinson as our State Superintendent of Public Instruction. But in early February, Gov. Perdue appointed Bill Harrison as Chairman of the State Board of Education. She then leaned on the board (whom she appoints) to also name Harrison CEO of the Department of Public Instruction, effectively reducing Atkinson to nothing but a figurehead. Perdue’s motives were crystal clear: She wanted to control the department, so she did an end-run around the Constitution, hoping that no one would cry foul. But a few did, including yours truly. Atkinson heeded our cries and filed suit against the governor, saying, “It seems logical that an elected official would be able to select, organize and run his or her own state agency. You can rest assured that the over 2 million voters who voted for me think I have the authority to run the department. To think otherwise would discount the voters.” And with that, the people’s champion reluctantly stepped into the ring by Jim Longworth columnist to defend her title. At stake was the sanctity of the electoral process, and the principle of one man, one vote. Also on trial was the office of governor itself, which had been abused by Perdue’s predecessor. Mike Easley had used his influence to ramrod bad deals through the legislature, secure a high-paying state job for his wife Queen Mary and obtain free travel and vacations for the couple. Those of us who criticized mediocre Mike early on and were glad to see him go, had high hopes that the next governor would breathe a breath of fresh air into the high office. Instead we were treated to yet another arrogant, hypocritical chief executive. Fortunately, Wake Superior Court Judge Hobgood saw through Perdue’s power play, and ruled that no one but Atkinson had the authority to run the state’s schools. Perhaps Hobgood’s decision was influenced in part by the recent publicity over Easley’s abuses, but either way, he sent a clear message to the Governor’s office, and a warning to power hungry politicians who think they can get away with anything. And so, the heavyweight title has been decided in favor of Atkinson, but the fight might not be entirely over. Already, Bully Bev has her flunkies in the NC Attorney General’s office exploring an appeal. Of course, that begs the question: What in hell is the AG doing defending the offender? There’s also the very real possibility that Perdue will muster her forces in the legislature and attempt to pass an amendment that would legally give her the power to make Atkinson’s job moot. For

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