Politics & Government

Kentucky’s new governor relishes ‘special and humbling’ Inauguration Day

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and his wife First Lady Glenna Bevin, descended the steps during the Grand March and took a first dance in the Capitol rotunda on Inauguration Day.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and his wife First Lady Glenna Bevin, descended the steps during the Grand March and took a first dance in the Capitol rotunda on Inauguration Day. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Gov. Matt Bevin made a treasure trove of memories on his Inauguration Day — a day he called “special and humbling.”

The Louisville businessman who was a political unknown in Kentucky only three years ago was feted Tuesday with a two-hour parade that included movie star friend Jon Voight and a large-scale public swearing-in ceremony in front of the decorated Capitol, where he outlined his conservative agenda for the next four years and took a swipe at his favorite punching bag, the media.

He also was entertained at a welcoming ceremony at the Kentucky History Center that featured bluegrass musician Ricky Skaggs and had the spotlight shine on him at the traditional evening Grand March in the Capitol that has been a Kentucky tradition since the mid 19th-century to recognize new governors.

In the morning, a few hours after being officially sworn in as Kentucky’s 62nd governor at midnight, Bevin was the focus of prayer of about 1,500 people at a worship service at the Frankfort Convention Center.

It was the kickoff of a fresh start for him and his supporters. He is only the ninth Republican governor in Kentucky’s history and its second since 1971.

“It’s a new day for Kentucky,” said Jill Bell of Louisville, using a cliché that seemed on target for what transpired Tuesday in the state’s capital city.

“Whenever there’s a change in leadership, there's a new opportunity,” said Bell, a Passport Health executive and a member of Bevin’s transition team. “It’s an historic moment.”

Bevin relished the day.

Using no prepared speech in his inaugural address, the 48-year-old governor noted the august beauty of the setting: a large Capitol building decorated with red and blue bunting, a large throng of people on a bright winter’s day with only wisps of clouds in the blue sky and his large family — wife Glenna, their nine children, his parents and 101-year-old grandmother — at his side.

He called Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton “a groundbreaker,” a reference to her election as the first black person in Kentucky’s history to hold a constitutional office.

After encouraging the multitude to live by the Golden Rule of doing unto others what you would want them to do to you, Bevin recognized working journalists on a stand to his right and proceeded to chide the media for giving short shrift to his campaign blueprint for a better Kentucky.

“We bring a fresh start,” he concluded.

Bevin appeared comfortable throughout the inaugural events.

A new day is dawning in Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin

In the parade, he teamed up with Voight, who appeared in movies such as Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance, to thank and welcome home hundreds of veterans.

Bevin, a military veteran, said seeing the multitude of veterans was “very emotional for me. I appreciate your sacrifices.”

Voight, the father of actress Angelina Jolie, said he is “so blessed” to know Bevin and his family and was grateful to shake hands with many veterans. “Matt will make a fine governor,” he said.

The parade also included several high school marching bands and various state officials, including Attorney General-elect Andy Beshear, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and former Gov. Paul Patton and his wife, Judi Patton. All are Democrats.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat who will have a say on what Bevin gets in the legislature, was invited to be in the parade but declined.

He later said he does not like parades and was ready with a quip when asked if he would be in the inaugural parade four years from now.

“If I’m ever elected to statewide office,” he said.

Before the parade, Bevin and Hampton attended the morning worship service, which featured music, prayers and comments by several religious leaders.

Bob Russell, former senior pastor of Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church, which Bevin attends, asked the crowd to pray daily for wisdom for Bevin.

Russell said that God values wisdom in a leader, and that he thinks that quality will distinguish Bevin as Kentucky’s chief executive.

The most poignant moment in the service came when Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast, read a prayer written by Brittiney Bevin. She was the 17-year-old daughter of Matt and Glenna Bevin who was killed in a 2003 car wreck.

In it, Brittiney asked God to fill her with wisdom. She said God was the only peace that can fill the deepest hole.

Security was extremely tight for all the inaugural events. State police made regular sweeps in the Capitol with bomb-sniffing dogs.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis — whose fight against same-sex marriage rallied social conservatives this year — was among those attending the festivities.

“There is no question that the case of Kim Davis and the issue of religious freedom played a role in the governor’s lopsided win,” said Mat Staver, an attorney for Davis. “Kentuckians favor traditional values.”

It was a traditional Inauguration Day for a governor who may not be all that traditional.

“A new day is dawning in Kentucky,” he said.

Reporter John Cheves contributed to this story. Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics

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