By SHANNON McCAFFREY (Associated Press)
Nathan Deal urged self-reliance in tough economic times as he was sworn in as Georgia’s 82nd governor on Monday, completing a historic GOP sweep that now has Republicans at the helm of every statewide office.
”State government cannot and should not be expected to provide for us what we can provide for ourselves,” Deal said in his inaugural address to a joint session of the state Legislature.
Deal’s swearing in — against the backdrop of a rare Georgia snowstorm that forced the ceremony inside the state Capitol — was something of a family affair. The oath of office was administered by his son, Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal. His youngest daughter, Katie, serenaded her father with ”Georgia On My Mind.”
Deal aides said he penned his 18-minute address himself, written longhand on a notepad.
The former congressman from Gainesville pledged a frugal administration that eliminated unnecessary programs and focused instead on government’s core responsibilities, which he listed as education, public safety, transportation and water.
”In times of economic prosperity, we often ignore the costs and inconvenience of governmental paternalism,” Deal said.
”But in times such as these, with more than one of every ten of our employable citizens out of work, we must justify every cent that government extracts from our economy.”
Deal, 68, drew a standing ovation from the Republican-led House and Senate when he pledged to fight the Democratic-backed federal health reform law arguing ”government cannot make or keep us healthy.”
”The primary responsibility for good health rests with individuals and families,” he said.
Deal resigned his U.S. House seat immediately after casting a vote against the health reform law last March.
Monday’s ceremony was attended by Democratic Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, and David Scott, D-Atlanta.
Other snowbound political dignitaries — such as former Gov. Zell Miller — scrapped plans to attend the ceremony, which was originally slated to take place on the Capitol steps.
The snowstorm derailed Monday night’s inaugural gala as Republicans canceled the party — funded by a long list of corporate sponsors — to keep supporters off ice-slicked roads.
Fueled in part by anger at Democrats in Washington, Georgia Republicans won every statewide elected office in November’s general election. Republicans also picked up seats in the state Legislature and are close to holding supermajorities in both the House and the Senate.
It caps a political transformation that began in Georgia in 2002 when Sonny Perdue became the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Deal battled back against ethics allegations and personal financial troubles during last year’s bitter campaign. He narrowly defeated former Secretary of State Karen Handel in an August primary runoff and went on to pull 53 percent of the vote in the general election against Democrat Roy Barnes, the former governor trying to win his old job back.
Following his own swearing in Monday, Deal administered the oath to other statewide constitutional officers: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Attorney General Sam Olens, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Schools Superintendent John Barge.