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McCrory starts Saturday as next N.C. governor

Concerns, hopes accompany his private swearing-in ceremony

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory becomes North Carolina’s governor in a ceremony today that bars the public. That’s not a good signal for the openness and transparency in government that McCrory campaigned on to get the state’s top job.

Yes, the media will be there – and McCrory made a welcome turnabout in allowing more media than the one reporter and one television camera his team had initially OK’d. But besides newspeople, this invitation-only event gives entry only to family members, friends and Cabinet officials who are political allies,. It breaks with tradition and sets the wrong tone.

Still, at the start of McCrory’s historic governorship – he’s the first N.C. Republican governor in 20 years and the first with a GOP legislature in a century – we view this as a small misstep. Other moves he’s made during his transition to the governor’s office raise bigger concerns.

Chief among them have been some of his cabinet choices. One of his first picks, for budget chief, was businessman Art Pope, financier of conservative political candidates and whose right-wing ideology is divisive. He also tapped for his Chief of Staff Thomas Stith, a former top official of the conservative Pope Civitas Institute, a group funded by Pope. On Thursday, he added to this polarizing duo by nabbing controversial former Wake County schools superintendent Tony Tata as state secretary of transportation.

The choice of Tata for transportation secretary is raising a lot of eyebrows. A retired general, he has little direct transportation experience. Ironically, he was fired as schools chief after a transportation debacle at the start of this school year. He had reduced the number of school buses to save money and it spawned such chaos with bungled student pickups that the buses had to be added back.

Moreover, the Department of Transportation that Tata will oversee was an organizational mess before outgoing secretary Gene Conti, a former federal transportation official, took over. Political patronage was rampant for years. Tackling those problems effectively required an artful hand and knowledge-based expertise. It is no place for a novice.

On the other hand, some of McCrory’s choices are heartening. Tapping Sharon Decker, a former Duke Energy executive, as commerce secretary has justifiably won plaudits. She is widely praised for her business acumen and her philanthropic work. The former Charlotte resident is described as both visionary and pragmatic.

And McCrory’s choice of Democrat Susan Kluttz, a former Salisbury mayor, for secretary of the state Department of Cultural Resources is at least a nod toward bipartisanship in the GOP administration.

Yet, we hope McCrory does more than just nod toward inclusiveness.

He doesn’t have to, of course. For the first time in a century, Republicans control both the state House and Senate and the executive branch. They can push through pretty much whatever they want, with little effective opposition.

But McCrory takes oath today as governor of all of North Carolina – not of the Republican Party or its extreme conservative fringe. We urge him to govern accordingly. McCrory’s past as the centrist mayor Charlotte shows he can do it. To make the progress that this state needs to stay on a path toward prosperity for all North Carolinians, he’ll have to.

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