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Richard Moore’s campaign believes the fix is in for Beverly Perdue at the N.C. Association of Educators.

Moore sent a letter to the NCAE President asking for a delay in the endorsement in the Democratic governor’s primary.

A Moore aide sent me an email suggesting I blog on the matter:

“Given NCAE’s history of endorsements…I thought you might have some thoughts on whether this is good for their organization or not. I thought it might make an interesting blog posting given your knowledge of the Wicker endorsement. “

Now, that’s a sore subject. But the writer is correct. The NCAE endorsed my man Dennis Wicker in the 2000 primary, but Mike Easley beat us like a drum.

(Incidentally, I was told later that Senate leaders, who didn’t like Wicker, threatened to retaliate against the NCAE – unless they sat on their hands primary day. Did that happen? Well, the teachers made out better in the session than Wicker did in the primary.)

The Moore aide attached an analysis of NCAE’s endorsements in eight statewide elections since 1984. NCAE-backed candidates lost seven of the eight. Clearly, the NCAE’s support is not the be-all and end-all in an election.

But, in fairness, the list is selective. It did not, for example, mention the NCAE’s support for Jim Hunt in 1992 and 1996. And I can tell you that the endorsement can matter.

In 1984, the NCAE only half-heartedly supported Jim Hunt against Jesse Helms. They were mad at Hunt for freezing teacher salaries during a recession. Their non-action badly hurt Hunt that year.

When Hunt came back in 1992, his primary opponent, Lacy Thornburg, was confident he would have the teachers. But we worked it hard, and we surprised Thornburg and the experts by getting the endorsement. Hunt routed Thornburg.

A key player helping Hunt was John I. Wilson, the North Carolinian who is president of the National Association of Educators. And he’s supporting Beverly Perdue against Moore.

Whether Moore is right or not about the NCAE, I see this as another sign that his campaign is far sharper and more aggressive than Perdue’s.

Moore’s letter says:

“If the NCAE interviews an unannounced gubernatorial candidate who refused to participate in public campaign events, it would be a disservice to your membership and stifle open debate on issues critically important to our state’s public schools.

“Coupled with the unusual nature and timing of this process, continuing in this manner will only give more credence to the notion that this endorsement is more about personal agendas than what best serves NCAE’s membership and public education.”

At the same time, his campaign is raising questions with bloggers like me – and presumably the press – about the political value of the NCAE.

All the while, Beverly Perdue seems to be running a classic cautious front-runner campaign.

Bottom line: I believe the NCAE endorsement can help a candidate. But nothing helps a candidate more than a well-organized, aggressive campaign operation. I score this one for Moore.

And I should add one emailed comment from a Republican friend (not Carter): “I hope they pick Perdue so she’ll lose.”

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