North Carolina’s first Republican governor in 20 years was sworn-in Saturday during a brief, low-key ceremony that marked a renewed GOP dominance in the state government.
Pat McCrory, the city of Charlotte’s former mayor, said the goal wasn’t to get a title but “to lead and serve with a purpose, and that is what we will begin doing today.”
Chief Justice Sarah Parker administered the oath to McCrory shortly after noon in the House chambers of the old Capitol building. The ceremony lasted about 15 minutes.
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.
McCrory's wife, Ann, other family members and his incoming Cabinet attended the ceremony, which was held a week before the public inauguration. McCrory said he wanted his administration in place as the Legislature convened next week in Raleigh. He and the other nine elected Council of State members will participate in next Saturday's outdoor event.
McCrory ran for governor in 2008 but lost to Democrat Beverly Perdue. Perdue chose not to run for a second term last year, and McCrory defeated Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton in November by 11 percentage points. The victory marked a rare election night highlight for national Republican leaders who spent millions of dollars supporting his campaign. North Carolina was the only gubernatorial seat that flipped from Democrats to Republicans.
Perdue participated in Saturday's ceremony, completing the ceremonial transfer of the state seal to the incoming governor. Seating was limited for the invitation-only event.
McCrory's Cabinet secretaries were to be sworn in following McCrory in the old Senate chambers, with brunch afterward at the Executive Mansion. 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 Executive Mansion with the same immediate fiscal crisis that faced Perdue when she began in early 2009 at the height of the Great Recession, forcing her to slash budgets and furlough workers.
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 to pay unemployment benefits; reducing income tax rates considered among the highest in the Southeast; and lowering a 9.1 percent jobless rate that's among the nation's highest. Republicans also are poised to pass a bill requiring photo identification to vote in person. McCrory supports voter ID.
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 filled out his Cabinet just after the new year, saying his choices were politically and geographically diverse. But they also include former colleagues from his days working at Duke Energy Corp. He also 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 has given millions of dollars to conservative think tanks. His companies also have supported Republican candidates and causes. McCrory has defended his leadership choices, saying he's been looking for problem solvers and the best people for the jobs at hand.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.