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New Indiana Governor Faces Full Agenda

Joe Kernan confronts a stay of execution and a budget deficit after the death of his predecessor.

September 15, 2003|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Newly sworn-in Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan declared Sunday a statewide day of remembrance in honor of the late Gov. Frank O'Bannon, but remained out of the public eye in preparation for the week ahead.

Kernan, who was to return today to the Statehouse, faces some pressing problems.

He must soon decide whether to extend a 60-day stay of execution O'Bannon ordered in a death-row case, and how to handle the state's $800-million budget deficit.

He also must choose someone to take over his job as lieutenant governor.

Leaders of both parties said they were confident Kernan could corral consensus to address the state's biggest problems during next year's legislative session and run the state's business for the next 15 months.

Kernan, a Democrat who had been lieutenant governor since 1997, announced in December he would not run for governor in 2004.

The decision surprised Democrats, who had banked on him as their best chance for keeping a 16-year hold on the office.

In the week since O'Bannon's stroke, Kernan has said he does not anticipate changing his mind.

O'Bannon, 73, died Saturday in Chicago, and Kernan was sworn in as governor about six hours later.

Public services for O'Bannon are planned for next weekend. His body will be cremated and his ashes interred in a private service at a cemetery in his hometown of Corydon, the governor's office said Sunday.

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