FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Steve Beshear was sworn in as Kentucky
governor in a private midnight ceremony in the Executive Mansion,
completing an unlikely political comeback 20 years after he last
held an elective office.
After losing his first attempt at the job in 1987, Beshear had
given up aspirations of becoming governor. However, the Lexington
attorney made an unplanned return to Kentucky politics earlier this
year, jumping into the governor's race after trying unsuccessfully
to persuade other prominent Democrats to run.
"This is a prime example of how strange things happen in
life," Beshear said after being sworn in early Tuesday. "We're
going to face some challenging times in the days and months ahead
but, my friends, I will tell you right now, we're going to be
Joe Gershtenson, director of the Center for Kentucky History and
Politics at Eastern Kentucky University, said Beshear pulled off a
remarkable feat by returning to state politics after such a long
"It's got to be a nice feeling," he said.
Beshear, surrounded by his family, was sworn in by Supreme Court
Justice Bill Cunningham as the state's 61st governor. With his hand
on a white family Bible held by his wife, Jane, Beshear repeated
Kentucky's traditional and archaic constitutional oath. In addition
to a customary vow to uphold the law, the oath required Beshear to
swear that he has never fought a duel with deadly weapons - a
holdover from Kentucky's frontier days, one that drew snickers from
the 120 people invited to watch the ceremony in the mansion
Newly elected Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo was sworn in with the
same oath by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sara Walter Combs
immediately afterward with his fiance, Allison Patrick, at his
Brig. Gen. Edward W. Tonini was also sworn in as adjutant
general for the Kentucky National Guard, a move that satisfies a
constitutional mandate that the job never go unfilled.
Beshear previously announced Tonini as his choice for adjutant
general. He already has named several other people to fill key
positions in his administration.
Frankfort residents fulfilled a long-standing tradition later
Tuesday morning by welcoming the new governor to town.
Franklin County Judge-Executive Ted Collins came to the
governor's mansion carrying a white cake on a silver tray. Others
brought Kentucky bourbon, candy, country ham and beaten biscuits.
Beshear said he was "thoroughly enjoying" his first day as
After accepting the gifts, Beshear and his family attended a
morning religious service in downtown Frankfort. Ministers prayed
during the hour-long interdenominational service for Beshear and
Mongiardo to lead the state with strength and courage during the
next four years.
Outside the church, a marching band was lining up to participate
in Beshear's inaugural parade.
After the parade, Beshear was to be publicly sworn in by Supreme
Court Justice Mary C. Noble at 2 p.m., after which he was to
deliver an inaugural address outside the Capitol.
Beshear, 63, has said he thought his political career was over
long ago. But he reconsidered at the urging of friends and
political advisers. He went on to win a crowded Democratic primary
in the spring and later toppled incumbent GOP candidate Ernie
Fletcher in a lopsided victory.
Fletcher, who was the first Republican elected Kentucky governor
in more than 30 years, had been politically weakened by an
indictment charging that he rewarded politically connected
Republicans with jobs at the expense of Democrats.
The son of a Baptist preacher, Beshear climbed the political
ladder in the 1970s and 1980s as a state lawmaker, attorney general
and lieutenant governor. He lost in his first run for governor in
1987, then failed in a 1996 run for the U.S. Senate.
After that, he had faded from the political scene.
"He is very excited," spokeswoman Vicki Glass said. "He's
looking forward to helping make Kentucky a better place. He's ready
to hit the ground running."