Pat McCrory sworn in as North Carolina governor
RALEIGH — Pat McCrory was officially installed as North Carolina's governor on Saturday, getting sworn in during a low-key, 15-minute ceremony that belied momentous changes marked by new Republican dominance within state government.
Chief Justice Sarah Parker administered the oath of office to the former Charlotte mayor shortly after noon Saturday in the House chambers of the old Capitol building. McCrory kept to themes from his campaign of tackling problems and finding concord in brief remarks after becoming the state's 74th governor.
"Our goal was not to get a title. Our goal was to lead and to govern and to serve with a purpose, and that's what we're going to begin doing today," McCrory told more than 100 people at the invitation-only event aired on TV statewide. "We're going to have some tough work ahead of us."
McCrory is the first Republican governor in 20 years since Jim Martin, and the party now controls both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since 1870. The GOP also has expanded majorities in the General Assembly after gaining control of both chambers in 2010.
"It's an exciting time for everybody," House Speaker Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said after the ceremony, but with the GOP's power "comes an enormous obligation to deliver on the promises that we made to get here."
The ceremony was held a week before the public inauguration. McCrory said he wanted his administration in place as the Legislature convened next week. He and the other nine elected Council of State members will participate in next Saturday's outdoor event expected to attract thousands.
Still, the day carried brief moments of festivity and pomp, starting with a private prayer service at an Episcopal church on Capitol Square before heading to the 173-year-old Capitol building.
McCrory's wife, Ann, held two Bibles — one a 1599 edition called the Durant Bible known as North Carolina's oldest book — that McCrory placed his hand on as his three siblings, nephews and nieces, incoming Cabinet and outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue watched him become governor. All seven Supreme Court justices and most Council members also attended.
A North Carolina National Guard brass quintet played patriotic music during the ceremony but turned to "Penny Lane" and "When I'm Sixty Four" — McCrory is a Beatles fan — as he left the Capitol rotunda headed to the Executive Mansion for lunch.
Perdue narrowly defeated McCrory in 2008 to become North Carolina's first female governor. The two hugged twice as Perdue completed the ceremonial transfer of the state seal to McCrory. "Thank you for your leadership and your public service over the past 20 years," McCrory told Perdue.
Perdue chose not to run for a second term, and McCrory defeated Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in November. The victory marked a rare highlight for national Republican leaders, as North Carolina was the only gubernatorial seat that flipped from Democrats to Republicans.
McCrory's Cabinet secretaries and other top staff were sworn in later in the old Senate chambers. McCrory planned to attend a fundraiser Saturday night for a veterans' service group in his first public appearance as governor.
McCrory doesn't arrive at the Mansion with the same immediate fiscal crisis that faced Perdue when she began in early 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.
But McCrory, 56, must deal with what he's called stubborn unresolved problems. He said they include eliminating the nearly $2.6 billion owed to the federal government for unemployment benefits and lowering a 9.1 percent jobless rate that's among the nation's highest.
The Rev. David Chadwick of Charlotte prayed during the ceremony with "great hope that four years from now North Carolina will have thousands more with jobs, thousands more children who are better educated" and will be "a state undivided."
McCrory, who was mayor in North Carolina's largest city a record 14 years, is considered a social moderate, but conservatives in the Legislature are likely to test his temperament on issues such as abortion. McCrory and legislative leaders both want to pass a law requiring photo identification to vote in person, a divisive issue.
McCrory surprised some by naming embattled former Wake County schools superintendent Tony Tata as transportation secretary and Art Pope, a conservative philanthropist and former legislator, as his budget director.
Pope, the chief executive of a retail store chain, has been a bogeyman of sorts for liberals because his family foundation or his companies have given millions to conservative think tanks or backed Republican causes. A cadre of activists staged a mock swearing-in of Pope as governor Saturday morning a block away near the Legislative Building to highlight the connections.
"Art Pope and Pat McCrory: Who's In Charge?" read one flier. Pope said later any idea that he's pulling strings in the administration is "silly street theatrics" and that he only advises the governor and carries out his policies.