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Morning Memo: 'Gov. Pay Raise', Sen. Hartsell face tough questions

GOV. PAY RAISE: The salary hikes Gov. Pay McCrory gave to his cabinet are stricking a chord. From N&O columnist Barry Saunders: If you saw our new governor live or on television banging away on a drum set with a band at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre last week, you already know Ringo has nothing to worry about.

For further evidence that the governor is tone deaf, all you had to do was read the newspaper the next day and see that Gov. Pat, henceforth known as Gov. Pay Raise, McCrory bestowed sizable raises on the people closest to him while sprinkling a pittance upon those outside his inner circle – you know, the ones who do the actual work.

You are reading the Dome Morning Memo, an analysis of the day's political headlines. Read much more below. Thanks.

AHEAD THIS WEEK: The UNC system committee considering a new five-year plan meets Monday. The NAACP holds is own legislative briefing -- sure to be much different from the one Republicans will hold -- Tuesday to talk about poverty and economic justice.

Gov. McCrory feted at exclusive inaugural party

The Foundation for North Carolina, a nonprofit formed to further Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda, held its own inaugural ball Saturday night in Raleigh. The exclusive event -- which sold out days ago and attracted more hype than the traditional Junior League ball the night before -- featured McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and many other Republican dignitaries.

VIP guests paid $1,000 to attend a special reception before the ball featuring the governor and an open bar but more than one attendee grumbled that they couldn't drink enough Troy Moonshine and Cheerwine cocktails to make it worthwhile. Earlier in the evening the Foundation hosted an invitation-only dinner at the Carolina Country Club that asked guests not to even tell others about it.

For the main event at the Raleigh Convention Center -- the same scene as the other ball Friday night -- the guests arrived in chauffeured sedans, limousines and cabs. McCrory's new Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan arrived in a stretch black limo with a deep entourage. He emerged as if at a tailgate party, holding what appeared to be a red solo cup and drank on the sidewalk as he talked to State Highway Patrolmen for a couple minutes outside the venue.

Jim Gardner pokes fun at Jim Hunt

Former Republican Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner had a little fun with his former political rival Jim Hunt as he played emcee at Saturday's inauguration.

"Is this not a great day in North Carolina," he asked toward the end of the ceremony. "And I'm even up here clapping for Jim Hunt," he added to laughter.

Hunt, the former four-term Democratic governor, did not attend the ceremony. But Bishop George Battle Jr, of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, countered for him.

Saying he had something in common with Gardner, he said, "I used to serve you at the country club. So let's be careful about what you say about my governor Jim Hunt."

Pat McCrory proclaims new direction in inaugural address

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.”

Jim Gardner gets another day in the sun

The Republicans rolled out one of their old political war horses to emcee the inauguration on Saturday. Former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner was the master of ceremonies for the event, presiding flawlessly. Gardner, a Rocky Mount businessman, was elected to Congress in 1966, and was a candidate for governor in 1968, 1972, and 1992. He was elected lieutenant governor. Gardner, one of the father's of the conservative movement in North Carolina, that one of his favorites was the new Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. In introducing Forest, who had the backing of many social conservatives, Gardner said Forest was one "close to my heart.'' Gardner called it "a great day for North Carolina.'' "I'm even up here clapping for Jim Hunt," he said. Hunt defeated him for governor in 1992.

Holshouser in hospital

Former Gov. Jim Holshouser did not make the inauguration Saturday of Gov. Pat McCrory because he was in the hospital, according to former Lt. Gov. Jim Gardner. Holshouser, now 78, was the first Republican governor of the modern era, having been elected in 1972. He now practices law in Southern Pines. Other governors at the event were Democrats Bev Perdue and Mike Easley and Republican Jim Martin. Democrat Jim Hunt was not present, but he met privately with McCrory on Thursday.

Morning Memo: The private first lady, and inaugural party time begins

MUST READ: First Lady Ann McCrory shuns the public spotlight. From the story: Ann McCrory hasn’t fully embraced McCrory's political career. Nor has she opposed it. Now, after her husband’s three city council terms, seven terms as mayor and two tries at the governor’s office, she has moved into a late 19th century mansion at the center of government for a state of more than 9 million people. There, the demands on her time – and the questions about her own life and marriage – will immeasurably grow. However, those who know the new first lady say there are no guarantees that her public role will grow right along with them.

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo, a digest of the day's political news and other tidbits from the statehouse arena. Click below for more***

Gov. McCrory rocks out on drums at inaugural event

Gov. Pat McCrory banged out a drum solo on stage at the Lincoln Theater in Raleigh on Thursday night, kicking off the inauguration festivities.

The mostly young crowd, some in suits, some in flannel, clapped along and a few started singing Queen's "We Will Rock You" to McCrory's bass line. "There we go," McCrory said.

The Republican governor, wearing a sport coat and no tie, seemed at ease at the event. When he left the stage, he listened to the music from in front of the stage, shunning the roped-off VIP section saved for him on the club's upper level.

Morning Memo: GOP in power, today's big vote and a new political show

BIG VOTE TODAY: North Carolina children as young as 5 may soon be able to receive their public school education online from for-profit companies. The State Board of Education plans to vote Thursday on a special application for virtual schools that want to run public charters and receive taxpayer money. Full story here.

INAUGURATION FESTIVITIES GET UNDERWAY: Thursday marks the beginning of the traditional inauguration festivities. Council of State officials will get feted at a reception at 6 p.m. at the Progress Energy Center. The event is hosted by the Junior League of Raleigh and five companies with business before the state will sponsor: Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, Cisco Systems, Duke Energy, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and the Hendrick Companies. It's just one of the few opportunities special interests will get to lobby the state's top officials this week.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo, a digest of the state's big political news with analysis the reads between the lines. Thanks for reading. Click below for more.***

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