Indianapolis, Sept. 13 (AP) - Joe Kernan was sworn in Saturday as Indiana's 48th governor, just hours after Gov. Frank O'Bannon died of a stroke in a Chicago hospital.
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm gave Kernan, 57, the oath of office. O'Bannon's wife, Judy, attended the ceremony.
"I have lost my governor and my friend. So too has every Hoosier lost their governor and their friend," Kernan said immediately afterward. "Tomorrow, Sunday, I would ask that all over the state of Indiana we have a day of remembrance, a day of reflection, sorrow and joy for a life that was lived to the fullest in the service of the people of Indiana."
The state Supreme Court had formally transferred power to Kernan on Wednesday, two days after O'Bannon was stricken while attending a trade conference. O'Bannon, 73, died Saturday morning.
As lieutenant governor, Kernan, 57, has played a largely ceremonial role in presiding over the Republican-controlled Senate. But he already has proven to many he can work with both parties in the General Assembly.
He was O'Bannon's point man in selling and pushing a tax-restructuring package to passage last year, and played a similar role in the economic development initiatives enacted this year.
In December, Kernan surprised Indiana's political establishment by saying he would not pursue the 2004 Democratic nomination for governor, saying he and his wife, Maggie, decided it was time for him to step aside after what will have been 17 years in elected office. A former South Bend mayor, he had held the state's second-highest office since 1997.
On Sunday, he said, "Today, without reservation, Maggie and I accept these new responsibilities."
Following is the text of Gov. Joe Kernan's remarks after being sworn in as the 48th governor of Indiana:
"In 1990, I had the opportunity to be with an extraordinary man and woman on a trade mission to eastern Europe. It was Judy and Lt. Gov. Frank O'Bannon. And I came away from that experience understanding the sincerity, the compassion, the passion, the commitment to service of those two wonderful people. And we became friends.
In 1996, knowing of my reservations to run for lieutenant governor with him, when Frank O'Bannon asked me to run, I accepted without hesitation because of my trust, my respect and my belief in him and all that he stood for.
Today, without reservation, Maggie and I accept these new responsibilities that we have with humility, understanding of the challenges that lie ahead, but also with resolve - understanding that as we work together, going forward from here, in the ideals that Frank O'Bannon taught us in his lifetime, that we can do well, that we can do the best for Hoosiers.
I've lost my governor and my friend. So too has every Hoosier lost their governor and their friend.
Tomorrow, Sunday, I would ask that all over the state of Indiana we have a day of remembrance, a day of reflection, sorrow and joy for a life that was lived to the fullest in the service of the people of the state of Indiana so that every Hoosier could live their lives to the fullest.
Thank you all for being with us this afternoon."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)