With a Republican newly elected as governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, North Carolina, long a politically moderate player in the South, will soon have its most conservative government in a century.
Pat McCrory, the longtime mayor of Charlotte, easily defeated Walter Dalton last month in the governor’s race. Mr. Dalton entered the race after Bev Perdue, a Democratic governor bruised by low approval ratings and battered by the Republican-dominated Senate and House, decided not to run again.
It has been more than 28 years since North Carolina elected a Republican governor and more than 100 years since both that office and the legislature were controlled by Republicans. As a result, North Carolina is preparing for an ideological shift whose effects could be felt for decades.
“It’s pretty much a stunning change,” said Jeanne Bonds, a Democrat and frequent political commentator who served as the mayor of Knightdale, N.C. “The Republicans run a social agenda that’s not what many North Carolinians are used to seeing.”
North Carolina has long been a purple state amid the red of the South, with business-minded moderate Democrats populating much of the political landscape and political power being balanced between conservative rural regions and Democratic strongholds in urban centers.
North Carolina supported, though by a whisper, Barack Obama in 2008. But the state began to shift, and an increasingly conservative agenda took hold in the ensuing years. The Republicans took over the legislature, pressed for tougher rules on immigrants and a voter identification law, and secured a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Then, behind a strong push by religious conservatives, the state gave a narrow victory to Mitt Romney in the election last month and re-elected a Republican-backed judge to a seat on the State Supreme Court.
For his part, Mr. McCrory has not discussed a conservative social agenda or, really, any political agenda at all. In interviews, he has emphasized only that he intends to run North Carolina like a business with “a culture of customer service.”
“There’s no question that the energy in the Republican Party is coming further from the right and the Tea Party,” said Steven Greene, a political scientist at North Carolina State University. “Which way is he going to go? It’s the big question right now.”
Mr. McCrory first ran for governor in 2008 but was beaten by Ms. Perdue, then the lieutenant governor, who became the state’s first female governor. As a mayor on the moderate side of his party, Mr. McCrory had bipartisan support and was perhaps best known for revitalizing Charlotte with projects like a light-rail system and the Nascar museum.
His large transition team is being studied for signs of whether he will turn more conservative. It is heavy with Republican politicians and business leaders, including former members of President George W. Bush’s administration and former governors. The most controversial figures on the team are the billionaire businessman Art Pope and some of his allies who are connected to the John William Pope Foundation. The group, which is dedicated to conservative and free-market ideas, has given millions of dollars to libertarian and conservative groups, including the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity.
Mr. McCrory will have a rare opportunity to swap out as many as 1,000 people who work in eight state agencies, among them the Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Environment and Natural Resources.
Ms. Perdue had less than half that number of appointees to work with, but the Republican-controlled legislature changed the rules in 2010 and allowed the new governor a much larger number of appointees in exempt positions.
In addition, the legislature turned back nominations from Ms. Perdue for the state boards that govern education and utilities. As a result, Mr. McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for three decades, will be able to appoint several people who will help decide electricity rates and educational policy.
“He’s going to step on a lot of toes, but that’s not to inflict pain but to get people to step up and work together,” said Chris Walker, his communications director, who was a regional communications adviser for Mr. Romney’s presidential run this year.
One of the first tests of Mr. McCrory’s power came this month when supporters in the legislature fought one of Ms. Perdue’s longstanding goals: to lease 325 acres of state land to Raleigh to create its own version of Central Park a mile from the Capitol. The land held a mental hospital for 150 years, and about 1,800 state health and human services employees work there.
The North Carolina Council of State, which controls state land, gave Ms. Perdue a victory and voted to allow the deal to go through. In the week before the vote, Republicans in the legislature and some of Mr. McCrory’s staff members argued that the plan needed more public scrutiny and should have been delayed until Mr. McCrory and his administration took over.
Other indications that the death of a more moderate North Carolina might be premature came last week when a House panel on immigration disbanded quietly without supporting any legislation to change immigration policy.
Instead, the group of seven Republicans and five Democrats called for the federal government to better control the country’s borders, asked for more power for states to enforce existing laws and made note of the contributions immigrants have made to the state.
Some good news from the peanut fields of the South: the crop is great this year.
I travel to South Carolina to find out just who has the best peaches in the South
Ramen is usually just steps away from hungry diners in most parts of Japan. Often, it’s in the form of flash-fried, pre-seasoned noodles packed into cellophane bags and foam cups. Now instant ramen is being sent by the truckload to the survivors of the Japanese earthquake.
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — The two contenders in the great North Carolina truffle wars could not be more different.
Susan Rice Alexander, the showy newcomer, lives by the fifth hole of a golf course and is married to an orthopedic surgeon. Franklin Garland, the eccentric veteran, lives with his wife at the end of a rutted dirt road.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Get people talking about civil rights-era buses and it’s all Rosa Parks all the time.
Museums are dedicated to her role in the boycott in the mid-1950s that forced Montgomery to stop banishing African-Americans to the back of city buses. Schools and stamps bear her name. There is a Rosa Parks cookie jar and a Rosa Parks app.
COFFEEVILLE, Ala. — After a couple of days in this part of rural Alabama, it is hard to complain about a dropped iPhone call or a Cee Lo video that takes a few seconds too long to load.
The county administrator cannot get broadband at her house. Neither can the sportswriter at The Thomasville Times.
Here in Coffeeville, the only computer many students ever touch is at the high school.
“I’m missing a whole lot,” Justin Bell, 17, said. “I know that.”
CITRONELLE, Ala. — It’s shaping up to be a darn nice Valentine’s Day here in Mobile County.
An optimistic band of middle school students hopes that for just one day no one in the county will curse. Perhaps people can substitute “sugar” or “snap.” Or even the powerful “Oh, pickles!”
ATLANTA — The Chick-fil-A sandwich — a hand-breaded chicken breast and a couple of pickles squished into a steamy, white buttered bun — is a staple of some Southern diets and a must-have for people who collect regional food experiences the way some people collect baseball cards.
ATLANTA — Traffic is Atlanta’s Godzilla, a monster of gigantic proportions that seems too big to defeat.
But chalk one up for the underdog. The metropolitan region has moved from having the third-worst congestion in the nation to having the 10th worst, according to a new report from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.
ATLANTA — The spouses of two people killed at a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville last year have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the university provost.