Gov. Bev Perdue The race for North Carolina governor is suddenly up in the air. Democrat Bev Perdue today announced she will not seek re-election. It's an unusual move for an incumbent, and one that surprised the Democratic Party. It was widely assumed that 2012 would be a rematch of the 2008 race between Perdue and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. The Democrats haven't really been talking about other options. "We were expecting Governor Perdue to mount a campaign to take on Pat McCrory,"says former Mecklenburg County Democratic Chair Joel Ford. But word surfaced last night that Perdue had other plans and at noon today she released a statement saying she would not seek re-election. "I hope this decision will open the door to an honest and bipartisan effort to help our schools," Perdue says in the statement. She feared her re-election campaign would only politicize the fight to fund education. But Perdue also has one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in the nation and she's consistently trailing McCrory in polls, notes UNC Charlotte political science professor Eric Heberlig. "In fact, I suspect that's the main reason she's stepping down," says Heberlig. "She's well behind in the polls. Everyone knows the economy isn't good. Unemployment's high. She's had to alienate a number of people with tough budget decisions." Perdue announced last week she will push for a sales tax increase to fund education. Now she'll do that as a lame-duck governor, rather than one seeking re-election. Democrats interested in Perdue's seat have just 12 weeks to mount a campaign before the North Carolina Primary on May 8.