- Associated Press - Saturday, December 31, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s new governor is wasting no time stepping into the role with a swearing-in minutes into the New Year.

Democrat Roy Cooper’s decision to take his oath just after midnight Sunday reflects the unusual election cycle and the state’s contentious partisan poltics. One of his aides has said Cooper wants to get a quick start on gubernatorial duties after his transition period was shortened by a protracted debate over vote-counting in the close race against outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

The pared-down ceremony comes a week before Cooper’s public inauguration, which will include a parade and other fanfare. McCrory took his oath of office during the day on Jan. 5, 2013 ahead of his public inauguration.

Political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College said he couldn’t recall another governor taking his oath just minutes after the clock strikes midnight, but he said it’s not surprising in the contentious political environment that included new laws to strip Cooper of some of his power before he even took office.

“In our polarized political environment, it’s not surprising that once a term in office ends, the new administration wants to assume that power,” he said.

For his part, Cooper has already begun ushering out stalwarts of the McCrory administration. Cooper spokeswoman Megan Jacobs said Thursday that dismissal notices were given in the past week to a few dozen McCrory political appointees.

Turnover among those positions isn’t uncommon, but the swiftness of the dismissals carries extra weight in light of the recent legislation that limits Cooper’s number of political appointees to 425. That’s less than a third of the number McCrory had.

Cooper has threatened to take Republicans to court over the laws passed during a surprise December special session. A state Superior Court judge on Friday temporarily blocked a law that ends the control governors exert over statewide and county election boards. Cooper’s attorney said more legal challenges are planned next week.

Another of the laws requires Cooper’s Cabinet choices to be confirmed by legislators. The state Constitution gives the Senate the ability to “advise and consent” to the governor’s appointees by a majority vote, but that provision hadn’t been used in at least several decades.

Cooper is a 30-year veteran of state politics - 14 years in the legislature before 16 as attorney general - and claimed victory on Election Night. But it was another 27 days before McCrory conceded while dozens of ballot protests were considered and a partial recount was held in Durham County. In the end, Cooper won by about 10,000 votes.

Cooper’s public inaugural ceremony will be held on Saturday, Jan. 7, followed by a parade and party at the governor’s mansion.

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