FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Steve Beshear arrived at the Capitol in a
horse-drawn carriage Tuesday morning for his first day as governor
- a day filled with the pomp of inaugural festivities for a man who
had given up on politics only to make an unplanned comeback.
Beshear and his wife, Jane, were greeted with cheers, whistles
and the first rays of sunshine to fall on Frankfort after five days
of rain as they turned onto Capitol Avenue in the green wooden
carriage pulled by two huge black horses.
"I brought the sun," a jesting Beshear told well-wishers
lining the sidewalks.
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.
Thousands of people lined the streets of Frankfort to catch a
glimpse of the state's 61st governor in an inaugural parade that
began about 10 a.m. EST.
Alexis Seymore, a school superintendent from Dawson Springs
where Beshear grew up and one of the spectators, said the new
governor is an inspiration to small-town children because he has
proven that they can do anything they set their minds to.
"It's just a great example," Seymore said.
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
Dawson Springs Mayor Stacia Peyton, who spoke briefly during the
inauguration ceremony, gushed about Beshear, saying "we are all
hometown proud of our native son."
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. With his hand on a white family Bible held
by his wife, 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 ballroom.
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. They will be sworn in on
Frankfort residents fulfilled a long-standing tradition 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.
Beshear was publicly sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Mary C.
Noble at 2 p.m., after which he delivered an inaugural address
outside the Capitol, calling for unity after a divisive election
"We have come through the time-honored American rite of a
hard-fought campaign," he said. "As a result, it is easy to see
what divides us. Instead, what I want to see, and what I do see
today, is what unites us."
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."
Associated Press Writer Joe Biesk in Frankfort contributed to
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)