I'm not sure I can entirely explain what's going on between Moore and Perdue right now, but I can tell you one thing: it ain't pretty. For those not interested in all the sordid details, it goes something like this (thanks to the Dome's steady reporting):
1. Our two top Democratic members of the Council of State decide to compete in the governor's race
2. Dirty tricks start early on here at BlueNC
3. A low-level guerrilla war breaks out on all fronts
4. People in both offices do musical chairs, moving from being state employees to campaign staffers
5. At least one person on Moore's staff slips up and uses a computer in the Treasurer's office to do opposition research for Moore's campaign, triggering this response from Perdue:
Beverly Perdue has asked the state auditor to look into public records requests. In a letter to Les Merritt today, the lieutenant governor's legal counsel writes that her office has received several e-mails from a computer in the state treasurer's office requesting public records.
"While it is every citizen's right to request public records, I am concerned that someone was using state computer resources in the office of the State Treasurer to conduct political campaign opposition research," writes her staff attorney, Will Polk.
6. Moore pokes back saying, basically, everybody does it and that Beverly Perdue's campaign has also used state resources.
In a letter to state Auditor Les Merritt, Moore's campaign manager, Jay Reiff, charges that Perdue's chief of staff has been running her unofficial gubernatorial campaign.
7. Moore declares he will discipline Julie White, who is, he say, the offending party.
(Meanwhile, the Dome gets miffed that Moore shared the news only with Mark Binker at the Greensboro paper)
8. Perdue says "not so fast."
Beverly Perdue says Julie White did not act alone. “It’s clear from the documents that others in the office were involved and that the problem was more widespread," said communications director Tim Crowley. "The Treasurer owes a deeper explanation than what has been given so far." Earlier, Crowley said Moore's counter-claim to state Auditor Les Merritt was a "campaign stunt."
Everyone in both offices has to watch the line between politicking and being a state employee. That's a given for any staff member, but it's harder than it might look. Julie White works part-time for Richard Moore the Treasurer and part-time for Richard Moore the candidate. No wonder the poor woman got confused.
In any case, expect things to get more heated as both campaigns move into full-blown frenzies. As part of gearing up for her big announcement on October 1, Perdue has moved Zach Ambrose from serving as her Chief of Staff to serving as her Campaign Manager. He's up against Jay Reiff, in Richard Moore's corner.
From all I can see, we're now entering Round 2, where campaign stunts will likely devolve into real punches. Like I said, it ain't pretty, and it's probably going to get a whole lot uglier before it's over.
But no matter how bad it gets, it'll be nothing compared to what's going to happen when Fred Smith (who grew up in an orphanage, by the way) takes on Perdue in the general. At least she'll be battle tested, which is the only saving grace I can see coming out of this hard-fought primary.