CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx put their imprint on the first Democratic National Convention in their home state Tuesday, joining the chorus of speakers in pushing President Barack Obama's re-election bid in a battleground state.
Foxx and Perdue spoke from the podium on the convention's first day at Time Warner Cable Arena, basking in Charlotte's victory in landing the party's main event. But they also looked ahead to the work they say is needed to keep North Carolina in the Democratic column in November. Obama won North Carolina by 14,000 votes in 2008.
"This election is about the future," Perdue, who is not seeking reelection, told the convention crowd, her voice turning hoarse near the end of her short speech. "We will win this state. We will return Barack Obama to the White House. We will keep America moving forward."
Foxx, the key public figure in assembling the convention over the past 19 months, tried to link Charlotte's past to the future and Obama with a biographical snapshot. Foxx has been identified as a rising star in the party this week by national Democratic leaders.
Foxx talked about his upbringing — born to a single mother and raised by his grandparents — and how he was the product of a city whose families and leaders came together to integrate the schools 40 years ago.
"They gave a generation of kids a chance to go to school together, to learn together, to recognize that there is no wall too high or too strong to be broken down if we do it together," Foxx said.
"I live by the values my family and my community taught me," he added. "And you know what? I have seen President Obama at work, and these are his values, too."
Perdue also praised Obama for his education initiatives. North Carolina schools received federal grant money used to hire more than 5,400 school personnel during the last school year, while the state has received hundreds of millions of dollars through the Race to the Top program.
"The president's education initiatives are helping North Carolina's schools soar," she said. Perdue said the election is about deciding whether the country should follow Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's economic plan "to benefit the wealthiest among us" or Obama's policy to work for middle-class families.
"It's an easy choice," she said.
State Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood said in a statement that Perdue and Obama have failed to help turn around North Carolina's economy while in office. Perdue has been telling media outlets this week in Charlotte that North Carolina's economy is improving when the state jobless rate is at 9.6 percent.
"Perdue seems to think that North Carolina has 'bounced back,'" Lockwood said. "The Obama campaign and their allies are telling Americans this: You're doing well, you're just not smart enough to know it."
Other North Carolina Democratic leaders were expected to address the convention this week, including former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt on Wednesday and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the party's gubernatorial nominee, on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium, when Obama will give his acceptance speech.
Also Tuesday, third-graders at W.R. O'Dell Elementary School in Concord led the convention hall in the Pledge of Allegiance.