Kentucky secretary of state calls for a ‘tolerant and welcoming society’ as he starts his 2nd term

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams called on Bluegrass State policymakers to promote a “tolerant and welcoming society” as he joined four fellow Republicans for their public swearing-in ceremony Tuesday as they started their terms as statewide officeholders.

A crowd that included U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell looked on as the five officials ceremonially took the oath of office at the state Capitol. They were officially sworn in on New Year’s Day.

Along with Adams, they included Attorney General Russell Coleman, State Auditor Allison Ball, State Treasurer Mark Metcalf and State Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell.

Adams was reelected to a second term last November, while the other Republican victors are in their first terms. As usual, the oaths included the archaic passage in which they swore they’ve never fought a duel with deadly weapons or been involved in one in any way.

Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, both Democrats, were sworn in to their second terms last month. Beshear attended the ceremony for the GOP officials Tuesday.

In his speech after taking the oath, Adams quipped: “It is great to not be fired.” His speech quickly turned serious, as Adams bemoaned that Kentucky remains atop “far too many undesirable categories.” He urged state leaders to continue creating a business and tax environment that attracts more people.

“Just as important, are we going to offer a tolerant and welcoming society that won’t repel those otherwise interested in becoming Kentuckians?” Adams added.

If the state fails on that front, he warned, it could “lose our next generation to other states, too. A generation uninterested in relitigating the culture wars of the ’80s.”

Last year, Kentucky’s GOP-dominated Legislature enacted a measure banning access to gender-affirming health care for young transgender people, joining several other Republican-leaning states in the action. Adams didn’t mention the legislation in his speech Tuesday, but his comments appeared to double down on his interview late last year with the Lexington Herald-Leader, in which he told the newspaper that his biggest takeaway from the 2023 election results, led by Beshear’s victory, was that Republicans had a messaging problem. Republicans tried to push the transgender issue to the forefront of the governor’s race.

The other Republican officeholders offered glimpses of their top priorities in their new jobs. McConnell — the main architect of the GOP’s rise to dominance in Kentucky — spoke in personal terms about his connections to them in his speech.

Coleman, a former federal prosecutor, promised to make Kentucky safer and to enforce the rule of law as attorney general. After serving two terms as state treasurer, Ball said that as auditor she’ll serve as a watchdog of taxpayer dollars at an even “deeper level.” Metcalf vowed to “protect Kentucky’s money, to safeguard its pensions, to give taxpayers true value.” And Shell said that he’ll team with his staff to “make a difference for rural Kentucky, for urban Kentucky and for agriculture in this state.”

At the end of his remarks, Coleman said: “Now, let’s get to work,” echoing the comments of his fellow officeholders.

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