New Gov. Edwards Starts Inauguration Day With Prayer

Gov. John Bel Edwards

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Incoming Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, started the day of his swearing-in ceremony with prayer.

         Edwards, his family, friends and supporters on Monday morning attended a Catholic mass at a downtown Baton Rouge cathedral. The mass was by invitation only, closed to the public and media.

         Edwards' inauguration ceremony is being held on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol, where he’ll take the oath of office as Louisiana's 56th governor. He's expected to call for bipartisanship and unity in his speech, a nod to his need to work with a majority Republican Legislature to fix the state's financial problems.

         Today’s events include:


—8:00 a.m.: Inaugural mass at a cathedral in downtown Baton Rouge. Invitation only.


—9:30 a.m.: Pre-inaugural ceremony begins on the Louisiana State Capitol steps.


—10:00 a.m.: The House and Senate convene their organizational session, in which each chamber will elect its leadership.


—11:30 a.m.: Inaugural ceremony begins on the Louisiana State Capitol steps.


—11:45 a.m.: Statewide elected officials besides the governor take their oaths of office.


—12:00 p.m.: Edwards is sworn into office and delivers his inaugural address.


—7:00 p.m.: Inaugural black-tie ball at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge. Invitation only.


         Louisiana's newest governor and the state's 56th chief executive, John Bel Edwards, becomes the only Democratic governor in the Deep South today after an improbable election victory.

         Edwards follows term-limited Republican Bobby Jindal into office, inheriting a budget mess that will require the Democratic leader to work with a majority GOP Legislature.

         Edwards, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger, is the first Democrat to win a statewide elected office in Louisiana since 2008, after defeating one-time powerhouse U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who entered the race as the front-runner.

         A little-known member of the state House from rural Tangipahoa Parish, Edwards' chance of a win was deemed slim when he announced his campaign plans more than two years ago, not with a formal kick-off event but in response to a question on a radio talk show.

         He built a campaign operation that mainly relied on family and close friends, as political prognosticators and those within his own party initially gave him little chance of success.

         But conventional wisdom that a Democrat couldn't win in a state where voters tend to choose Republicans for the top jobs helped Edwards keep better-known Democratic candidates out of the race. Then, he benefited from an open primary in which he largely escaped attacks while the three main Republican contenders slammed each other and weakened Vitter going into the November runoff election.

         With anti-abortion and pro-gun stances and a military resume, Edwards downplayed his Democratic roots and positioned himself as a moderate who would work across party lines. He capitalized on voters' unease with Vitter and the senator's 2007 prostitution scandal. Edwards built a campaign on personal integrity, repeatedly saying in speeches and debates: "I will always be honest with you. I will never embarrass you."

         Today’s swearing-in ceremony’s master of ceremonies will be LSU play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne. The incoming governor will place his hand on the family Bible to take the oath.

         Prayers, music and pageantry will be a part of the event, themed "Louisiana First." Edwards will be heralded with a 19-round of cannon salute and an F-15 flyover. Edwards' close friend, state Rep. Jack Montoucet of Crowley and his family, will sing "Amazing Grace" in French.

         At least four of Edwards' predecessors will be on hand: Jindal and former Govs. Edwin Edwards, Buddy Roemer and Kathleen Blanco. An estimated 11,000 invitations were sent for the ceremony, which also is open to the public. Edwin Edwards and John Bel Edwards are not related.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte



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