RALEIGH — Standing in front of the Capitol, Gov. Pat McCrory said North Carolina faces challenges after some wounds that had been camouflaged were uncovered and exposed amid the economic recession.
Today we are setting a new strategy and vision ... to unleash the strength of our industries and the entrepreneurial talent and energy of our citizens, he said in his inaugural address Saturday. We will lead the way once again right here in North Carolina.
McCrory spoke from a podium that faced south down Raleighs Fayetteville Street, a symbolism the former Charlotte mayor used as a theme in his address. As I look out toward Main Street with government at our back, I see unlimited opportunity, he said. Government should not and cannot be a barricade or an obstacle to progress. Our face and our approach should be outward like we are today, not inward.
The 74th governor and first Republican in 20 years to hold the states highest office confronted the reality of his economic times, with the states 9.1 percent unemployment still above the national average, a point he made twice in the 22-minute speech. We also know there is pain right now in those communities. Too many people are out of work, he said. Our states unemployment is sadly the fifth highest in the country, and many of our leaders in Washington struggle to find solutions working together. But ladies and gentleman, there is another way.
The remarks long on a feel-good vision and hope for the future but short on specifics echoed the Republicans message from the campaign. He struck a moderate tone but his biggest applause lines hit partisan themes, such as his plans to overhaul what he sees as an inefficient state government, cut regulations that he believes impede economic growth and lower the tax burden.
We have the opportunity to transform our culture of government through a top-to-bottom assessment of efficiency, effectiveness and more than anything else a culture of customer service, McCrory said.
McCrory waited eight years for his moment on the stage, narrowly losing the governors race in 2008 to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue before cruising to a double-digit victory in November. His victory gave Republicans control of the two highest posts in state government and a super majority in each legislative chamber.
With Perdue sitting in the front row behind him, McCrory asked the crowd of roughly 2,500 to give her a standing ovation. Former Govs. Mike Easley, a Democrat, and Jim Martin, a Republican, also watched from the stage. Former Republican Gov. Jim Holshouser is in the hospital.
McCrory actually took the oath of office Jan. 5 in a small, private ceremony inside the state Capitol, making Saturdays inauguration only ceremonial in nature. But Council of State members were sworn into office with their families on stage beside them.
The five rows on stage and the white folding chairs lining Morgan Street were filled with Republican lawmakers, lobbyists and party faithful. The last inauguration for a Republican governor came in 1989 when Martin was sworn in.
Former House Speaker Joe Mavretic, a Democrat elected with Republican support who helped lead McCrorys transition into office, said the governors moderate tone was designed to appeal to more than just GOP supporters.
I think he was talking to everyone of the 10 million people in the state, he said. I think hes a chief executive who can bring divergent views together for the benefit of the state.