Perdue pushed long-term vision

When elected in 2000, Bev Perdue took the largely ceremonial post of lieutenant governor and got involved in issues such as health care, technology in education and economic development around the state's military bases.

Perdue attributed her jump from the N.C. Senate (after serving in the House) to the lieutenant governor's race, in part, to the frustration of trying to advance long-term changes in the legislature.

Gov. Mike Easley, also a Democrat, put Perdue in charge of the state's new Health & Wellness Trust Fund and, later, the state's efforts to prevent military base closings.

Perdue's signature achievement with the health and wellness fund was a ban on smoking at all N.C. public schools, a breakthrough in the No. 1 tobacco-producing state.

The American Lung Association still gives North Carolina F's for its comparatively low cigarette tax, air quality and spending on tobacco prevention.

The group, though, upgraded North Carolina from an F on youth access in 2006 to a C last year.