Inauguration season officially begins for winners of the 2010 gubernatorial contests

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December 7, 2010

Monday was Inauguration Day for Alaska and Hawaii

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

America's youngest states have officially made the change of power following last months midterm elections. Winners in Alaska and Hawaii took office yesterday, marking the start of a flurry of inaugurations that will continue through the middle of next month.

Alaska Governor, Sean Parnell, has held the office since July of 2009 when Sarah Palin resigned. For him, yesterday's ceremony was the start of a chance to make many of his own choices, compared to his 15 stint as an appointee when he says he focused on stabilizing the state.[1] He also has a new Lieutenant Governor, Arctic policy expert Mead Treadwell, who will continue to focus on those areas in his new job.

Both men are seen as unassuming, perhaps even stiff, and the ceremony was deliberately planned to be low-key. Despite Alaska's enviable financial situation - the state has billions in reserves - celebration was muted. Held at Juneau's enormous convention hall, the inauguration saw large sections of seats remain empty the entire time.[2]

Further south, Inauguration Day meant a realigning of the state's executive and so, perhaps understandably, a bit splashier. On Hawaii's Big Island, the first change of power to come out of the 2010 elections was themed "A New Day in Hawaii," attended by a crowd of 6,000 who had the distinction of being able to get away with sundresses and leis in December. Term-limited Republican Linda Lingle ceded power to Governor Neil Abercrombie and his Lieutenant Governor, Brian E. Schatz, the Democratic pair who won nearly 60% at the polls.

Lingle's own lieutenant, James "Duke" Aiona easily won the GOP primary in September, but fell short in the general election. However, as the outgoing holder of the office, he was on hand yesterday along with Mufi Hanneman, the Mayor of Honolulu and Abercrombie's primary opponent.

Governor Abercrombie, an academic who favored Hawaiian print shirts for campaign photos, hosted a post-swearing in luau that included the scheduled performance of a "slam poet" along with an impromptu Italian aria led by an Abercrombie supporter in the crowd. However, the use of the grounds of Hawaii's Iolani Palace distressed sovereignty activists, who maintain the Palace and its land belong to the Kingdom of Hawaii. Leon Siu, spokesman for the Kingdom of Hawaii Sovereignty Group told reporters, "He does know better. He knows that this is an affront to the Hawaiian people to do it here."[3]

A long time friend of President Obama who hardly shied away from touting that connection in his campaign, Abercrombie's address was decidedly philosophical, touching on hope, change, and the "need for joy."[4] At one point, Abercrombie told assembled supporters, "It is about a recommitment to the golden rule that reigns over Hawaii -- that we live aloha everyday so we can survive and thrive, working together for the good of all.[5]

Making his own inaugural address to the crowd, Lieutenant Governor Schatz announced that attracting businesses to Hawaii will be his chief priority while in office. He paired that with an exhortation to the state's youth to be politically engaged. Abercrombie scheduled a Monday afternoon press conference to address his own policy priorities and agenda.