Crist To Be Sworn in as 44th Governor

Tallahassee -

Charlie Crist is Florida's 44th governor as of noon today. His inauguration keeps the state in Republican control for at least four more years as he takes over from Jeb Bush.

A swearing-in ceremony was set for late morning, followed by Crist's inaugural address, in front of the Old Capitol building.

Crist's brief marriage ended in divorce in 1979, so he is the first bachelor to be sworn in since Claude Kirk in 1966. He planned to have other relatives with him at his inauguration. Fred Lewis, the Florida Supreme Court's chief justice, was expected to administer the oath of office to Crist, and to incoming Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

At a morning prayer breakfast on the Florida A&M University campus, Crist thanked his parents, former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack - his political mentor - and asked a crowd of an estimated 1,200 for their trust.

'Be patient with us, we'll make mistakes from time to time,' Crist said during brief remarks.

Crist, 50, has served as attorney general the last four years. He has also been education commissioner and was a state senator.

Bush planned to return to Tallahassee from his holiday vacation for the ceremony, which will officially close his eight years in office that were marked by repeated hurricane pummelings, sweeping education changes and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The popular governor couldn't run again because of term limits.

Following the swearing-in, Crist, of St. Petersburg, was expected to join in a parade from the Capitol to the governor's mansion, which will be open Tuesday afternoon for a public tour. The parade is a return to a tradition from many previous inaugurals, but one Bush skipped for his second inaugural in 2003.

Crist starts his term with promises to be bipartisan, and has sought the counsel of former Democratic governors for advice as he takes over. He also surprised many with his pick of former longtime state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat, to head the troubled Department of Children & Families.

Also being sworn in Tuesday will be members of the state Cabinet: Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

The weather was expected to be cool and clear with temperatures in the 60s. That's about 20 degrees warmer than four years ago, and much more comfortable than Bush's first inauguration in 1999 when bitter cold wind and temperatures in the low 20s greeted well-wishers that included former President George H.W. Bush and future President George W. Bush.

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