Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear sworn in for 2nd term in Republican-leaning Kentucky

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear sworn in for 2nd term in Republican-leaning Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear renewed his oath of office early Tuesday during a ceremony at Kentucky’s Capitol, launching his second term after notching a convincing reelection victory that could offer a roadmap for his party’s broader efforts to make inroads in Republican strongholds.

Beshear, 46, was sworn in shortly after midnight before a gathering of family, friends and supporters — a Bluegrass State ritual every four years to ensure continuity at the head of state government.

In a speech meant to resonate beyond Kentucky’s borders, Beshear called for a governing style that embraces “compassion and empathy” and that rejects the politics of anger and division.

“I ran for office to leave a better world for my children, for all of our Kentucky children,” he said. “And this is our chance, Kentucky’s chance, to be different and to make a difference. To be both an economic and a moral leader for this country. So we must face this challenge, the way we always do, together.”

Beshear pledged to continue the Bluegrass State’s “record-breaking economic win streak” and to keep pushing for greater investments in public education. But his most pointed words were aimed at political strategies that he said are “meant to make one American, one Kentuckian an enemy of another.”

“One of the most difficult challenges before us is that politics and sometimes even our governance has become poisonous and toxic,” he said. “What’s supposed to be an exchange of ideas has devolved into grievances and attacks. Some appear to think that it’s just a game, that no target is off limits, that no lie is too hurtful.”

The middle-of-the night formality preceded a full day of inaugural events Tuesday, including a worship service, a parade and a public swearing-in ceremony on the Capitol steps. Beshear will lay out themes for the second half of his governorship during his inaugural speech in the afternoon.

The governor defeated Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron in last month’s election, extending Beshear’s winning streak in a state that otherwise has swung decidedly toward the GOP. His victory, in one of the nation’s most closely watched campaigns of 2023, sets him up to be on the national radar in coming years when the country looks for a new generation of leaders.

Beshear’s reelection continued a family dynasty that has defied the Bluegrass State’s tilt toward the GOP. His father, Steve Beshear, is a former two-term governor. Andy Beshear took the oath of office with his hand on a Bible 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 and now twice as governor.

In winning reelection by more than 67,000 votes, Andy Beshear emphasized his stewardship over record economic growth, railed against what he said was his opponent’s extreme position on abortion and cultivated a reputation as an empathetic leader through a series of crises, including tornadoes, flooding and the global pandemic. He downplayed partisanship by distancing himself from national Democrats while stressing such everyday issues as improvements to public schools and infrastructure. While Beshear and Democratic Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman won as a ticket, Republicans swept all other statewide constitutional offices on the November ballot.

Coleman also was sworn in for a second term during the late-night ceremony. As usual, the solemn occasion elicited giggles when Beshear and Coleman reached the part of their oaths in which they swore they’ve never fought a duel with deadly weapons or been involved in one in any way.

Beshear’s hold on the governorship continues an era of divided government in Kentucky, where Republicans have locked in overwhelming majorities in both legislative chambers. During his first term, Beshear wrangled with GOP lawmakers over a series of policy issues.

The afternoon inauguration ceremony will include a performance by country music star Tyler Childers, a native of eastern Kentucky. The inaugural parade will focus on the past and future — symbolized by the choice of health care workers and educators as grand marshals. They’ll represent the health care professionals who treated Kentuckians during the pandemic and natural disasters that hit Kentucky during Beshear’s first term, and the teachers who are preparing the next generation of Kentuckians.

By the end of Andy Beshear’s second term, a Beshear will have presided in the Kentucky governor’s office for 16 of the last 20 years. Term limits will prevent the younger Beshear from seeking reelection when the next governor’s race occurs in 2027.

Four years ago, Andy Beshear was elected governor by about 5,100 votes in ousting the Republican incumbent, Matt Bevin. In 2015, Beshear won by a mere 2,200 votes in being elected attorney general.

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