Democrat Andy Beshear was sworn in as Kentucky's governor early Tuesday during a private ceremony just after midnight in the Governor's Mansion.
Beshear, 42, follows in the footsteps of his father, Steve Beshear, whose two terms as governor preceded the single four-year term of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. They are the first father-son duo to serve as governors in Kentucky history.
The middle-of-the-night swearing is customary in Kentucky, to ensure continuity at the head of state government.
Andy Beshear defeated Bevin in last month's election, overcoming a recent Republican trend in the bluegrass state. He countered Bevin's strong ties to President Donald Trump with a disciplined campaign that stuck to "kitchen-table issues" such as education and health care.
Andy Beshear showed that he was his own man during this year's campaign, even while embracing some of the same proposals — including increased access to health care and legalization of casinos — that his father had championed.
The new governor took the oath of office with his hand on a Bible that was given to his parents as a gift on their wedding day. The same family Bible was used when Steve Beshear was sworn in as attorney general, lieutenant governor and both times as governor, and when Andy Beshear was sworn in as attorney general.
The official transfer of power preceded a full day of inaugural events Tuesday, including a worship service, a parade and a public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps.
Teachers were given high-profile roles on inauguration day, reflecting their strong support in helping propel Beshear to a narrow victory. Bevin feuded with teachers over pension and education policies throughout his term. Educators were chosen to be grand marshals of the parade.
Beshear's election as governor continued his quick political ascent. Four years ago, he narrowly won election as attorney general. He wielded his authority as the state's top lawyer to challenge a series of Bevin's executive actions. Beshear also filed the lawsuit that led Kentucky's Supreme Court to strike down a pension law the GOP-led legislature passed.
Now he'll be dealing with many of those same lawmakers as the state's chief executive. He vowed as a candidate to exercise his executive authority.
Beshear said, for example, that he would use his powers as governor to disband the Kentucky Board of Education — for what he considered its charter schools leanings — and appoint new members. He also pledged to rescind Bevin’s proposed work-related requirements for some Medicaid recipients and restore voting rights for more than 140,000 nonviolent felons who completed their sentences.
Beshear's immediate challenges seemed to grow last week when Bevin's administration circulated a memo estimating that the new governor will inherit a budget shortfall that could exceed $1 billion as he prepares a two-year state spending plan to submit to lawmakers in early 2020,
Beshear has guaranteed that his promised $2,000 pay raise for public school teachers will be in his spending blueprint as part of an "education-first budget." The incentive is needed to resolve a statewide teacher shortage, he says.
During the campaign, Beshear focused on issues such as public education, health care, pensions and jobs. He avoided talking about Trump, impeachment or other polarizing national issues that risked energizing his opponent's conservative base.
Trump loomed large in the race as Bevin stressed his alliance with the Republican president in TV ads, tweets and speeches. The president took center stage in the campaign with an election-eve rally in Lexington, the state's second-largest city.
But Bevin failed to overcome a series of self-inflicted wounds, highlighted by his feud with teachers.
Beshear promised a new tone once taking office. Looking ahead, he urged Republican lawmakers to find common ground and to "civilly disagree" when they can’t.
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