Frankfort is a city where the state’s daily business — much of it tedious — is the focus during the work week.
But not Tuesday.
On this day, the state capital buzzed with excitement surrounding the inauguration of Gov. Matt Bevin, especially from Republicans who have been locked out of the governor’s mansion for 57 of the last 65 years.
Paperwork was replaced by a parade. A prayer service was conducted instead of legislative hearings. And the casual banter typical of the Capitol steps gave way to the pomp of a public swearing in of Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton.
At times, Bevin sprinted across Capital Avenue to shake hands with supporters on both sides of the street during his inauguration parade.
Russell Hobbs, an adult education teacher from Paducah, drove to Frankfort for the inauguration.
“I thought that everybody was in a great mood and they were happy, and it’s very encouraging to hear some of the things they are going to try to be doing for us,” Hobbs said.
In his inaugural address, Bevin highlighted scrapping the state’s health care exchange, auditing the ailing pension funds and bringing public charter schools to Kentucky as major policy initiatives.
Hobbs said one of the main reasons he voted for Bevin was because of the governor’s emphasis on Christian values.
“Without faith in God and the word and prayer, then our state’s not going to do as well as it should,” Hobbs said.
The festivities started off with a worship service — a common event for an incoming governor and usually a small gathering at a local church. Bevin’s worship service, however, took place at the Frankfort Convention Center. About 1,500 people showed up.
One of the attendees was Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses in protest of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Davis, an elected Democrat, switched her party affiliation to Republican, saying Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear wasn’t doing enough to address the issue.
Before Bevin’s inaugural parade, Davis walked along Capital Avenue in Frankfort, stopping to hug and take selfies with supporters who had gathered in anticipation of the parade.
Bevin has promised to change the state’s marriage license forms so that county clerks don’t have to sign them. Mat Staver, Davis’ attorney, said in a statement that Bevin’s win in November was partly due to Davis.
“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,” Staver said. “Kentuckians favor traditional values, and they are tired of the political elites represented by former Gov. Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway. The voters sided with religious liberty.”
Actor Jon Voight, a personal friend of Bevin’s, was featured in the parade and also attended Bevin’s earlier private swearing-in ceremony.
“It is so important to have great men in our governorships, now more than ever, since we are witnessing challenging times for our nation,” Voight said.
Although Bevin’s first day in office was Tuesday, he still has several key appointments to make, including secretaries for the Transportation Cabinet and the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
He also has to craft a state biennial budget proposal by Jan. 26.