Bentley, a Tuscaloosa physician who emerged from a crowd of Republican hopefuls to win the governor's race last year, will be sworn in shortly after noon. So will several new constitutional officers — all of them Republican, all of them propelled into office by a historic election that gave the GOP control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
The steps of the Alabama State Capitol were dressed in red carpet for the event, banners on either side of the stage that read "Celebrate Alabama" — the theme for this year's festivities.
Many who gathered along the street were local residents who said they showed up for every inauguration. But support for Bentley was strong among the crowd.
“I think we're on the right track," said Dottye Hannan, a self-described “big Republican” who lives not far from the Capitol. “I think Gov. Riley did a wonderful job, and I expect Dr. Bentley to carry that on."
Hannan said she voted for Bentley in the general election. Asked who she supported in the primary, she smiled and offered a “no comment."
“I live just down the road from the governor's mansion, so I'd better keep my mouth shut," she said. She also declined to say what she expected out of the new governor, saying “let's just give him a chance to accomplish things."
Anthony Miller, who described himself as a state employee, said he hopes the new governor will find a way to shore up the state's sagging budgets.
“We haven't had a pay raise in three years," he said. “I hope we can get the budget fixed."
Miller said he supported many of the changes made during the recent special session, citing a need to bring special interest groups under control. But he said he was concerned that with one party in control of most of state government, there was a danger that reformers would go too far and “shoot themselves in the foot."
His mother-in law, Cheryl Springer, said she too wanted Montgomery to be “cleaned up," though she wasn't so sure about the need for a special session.
“It seems like a waste of money to me," she said. “They could have waited until the new governor was in place, and it would have saved taxpayer dollars."
Paul Clemons said he voted for Democrat Ron Sparks in the primary. But he switched his vote after hearing both Sparks and Bentley talking about the issues after the primary. Clemons said he believed Bentley would allow a public vote on the legalization of gambling — a contrast to current Gov. Bob Riley's long-running battles with Alabama's casinos.
“(Bentley's) going to let the people decide whether they want bingo, not the government, and that's the way it should be," said Clemons, a retired Air Force C-130 pilot who lives in Montgomery.
After his swearing-in, Bentley will go to Dexter Avenue/King Memorial Baptist Church to make remarks in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on the same day as the inauguration. Tributes to King are also planned for the swearing-in ceremony.
After the swearing-in and MLK ceremonies, Bentley will greet the public at a free event at Riverwalk Stadium, Montgomery's minor league baseball venue.
An inaugural ball — only for donors to the inaugural committee — will be held at 7 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel downtown.