- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Monday took office as the state's 40th chief executive and first Democratic governor in 26 years promising to end business as usual.

"I never understood people who want jobs but hate business," said Blagojevich. "I will be a pro-growth governor." The 46-year-old son of a steelworker said his father, who died 14 years ago, would have been about halfway through his dayshift about the time when his son was being inaugurated.

"He may have dreamed of some good things for his children but I doubt if he imagined this," he said.

Blagojevich said the state faces a $5 billion budget deficit and quoted President John F. Kennedy who said he didn't realize things were as bad as he said they were until after he won the presidency.

"You voted for change and I am going to deliver it," Blagojevich said in a 20-minute address after taking the oath from Illinois Appellate Justice Anne M. Burke.

Republican Gov. Bob Taft was sworn in just after midnight in a private ceremony at the governor's mansion, 11 1/2 hours before the public inaugural at the Ohio Theater across the street from the state Capitol in Columbus.

State law required the 61-year-old incumbent to be sworn in at midnight when his first term officially ended.

Kathleen Sebelius became the 10th Democrat and second woman governor of Kansas. The 54-year-old Sebelius is the daughter of 81-year-old former Ohio Gov. John Gillian, who attended the outdoor inaugural on the south steps of the Kansas state Capitol.

"The pioneers were the ultimate optimists — leaving the comfort and safety of the territory they knew, for the promise of a new future for themselves and their families in the land to be discovered," Sebelius said in a 10-minute speech. "That same optimism and dedication to a better future will help us find a path through difficult times."

Sebelius will deliver her first State of the State address to the Legislature on Wednesday to outline plans to deal with a projected $1 billion budget deficit over the next 18 months.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry called for bi-partisan cooperation in solving the state's worsening budget crisis in his inauguration address at the Capitol in Oklahoma City.

"Some of us are Democrats. Some of us are Republicans. Some of us are independents. Above all, we must be Oklahomans first," the former state senator told the crowd. "Oklahomans have proven time and time again that we can meet a challenge and come out stronger than ever."

Henry, a Democrat, defeated former congressman and one-time NFL star receiver Steve Largent in an upset last November to succeed two-term Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who is taking a job with an insurance group in Washington.

Despite the challenge of a $600 million budget shortfall, Henry called his inauguration a celebration and urged the crowd to focus on families, values, faith and character.

"This inaugural is about character, and it is not in Oklahoma's character to fail … With patience, hard work, vision and pulling together, we will face the future with courage and confidence. We will emerge from these hard times as we have in the past: stronger than ever before."

Sonny Perdue became Georgia's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Perdue called for a "new spirit of cooperation, consensus-building and reconciliation." That might be difficult, however, because he will have to deal with a divided General Assembly and a looming budget crisis.

"In the wake of an unprecedented election, we now have an unprecedented opportunity — an opportunity to replace partisanship with partnership and build a new Georgia we can all be proud of," he said.

The speech came about 30-minutes after Perdue, with his wife Mary at his side, was sworn in.

Perdue made no reference to the state flag change during his predecessor Roy Barnes' term. Many believe his call for a flag referendum on whether to return to a flag with the confederate battle flag embedded in it played a role in his election.

The 56-year-old businessman from Bonaire in central Georgia is the state's 81st governor and the first Republican governor in 130 years.

Oregon Supreme Court Justice Wallace Carson administered the oath to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski before a joint session of the state Legislature.

The state's 36th governor Friday unveiled a $11.4 billion budget plan to deal with a projected $2 billion shortfall over the next two years.

"I do not come bearing a party label on my sleeve — or a quick fix in my back pocket," Kulongoski said.

(With contributions from Phil Magers in Dallas, Hill Anderson in Los Angeles and Les Kjos in Miami)


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