01:08 - Source: WSFA
Alabama governor resigns amidst scandal

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"Today is both a dark day in Alabama but yet also, it's one of opportunity," she said

While 33 states are headed by Republican governors, only three of them are women

Washington CNN —  

When Kay Ivey was sworn in as Alabama’s new governor on Monday, she made history becoming the first Republican woman to hold the office.

Ivey became the state’s highest-ranking politician after her Republican predecessor Robert Bentley made history of a different sort, resigning Monday and pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges related to an alleged extramarital relationship with his then-top political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. A state House Judiciary Committee resolved to impeach the second-term governor before he cut a deal with prosecutors and stepped down.

“Today is both a dark day in Alabama but yet also, it’s one of opportunity,” Ivey said at her swearing-in ceremony at the Alabama State Capitol. “I ask for your help, your patience as together we steady the ship of state and improve Alabama’s image. These are my first priorities as your governor.”

Ivey’s ascension makes her the fifth woman currently serving as a governor in the US along with two fellow Republicans and two Democrats. Ivey, 72, is the second woman to serve as Alabama’s governor after Democrat Lurleen Wallace, the wife of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, became the first to hold the job in 1967.

Ivey is certainly a veteran when it comes to working in state government. Before being elected lieutenant governor in 2010 and then re-elected in 2014, she served as state treasurer for eight years. All the way back in 1982, Ivey ran unsuccessfully for state auditor as a Democrat before working for the state’s education commission for more than a decade.

Kay Ivey, left, takes the oath of office to be governor of Alabama as she is sworn in by acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart on April 10, 2017, in Montgomery, Alabama.
Butch Dill/AP
Kay Ivey, left, takes the oath of office to be governor of Alabama as she is sworn in by acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart on April 10, 2017, in Montgomery, Alabama.

Ivey’s interest in politics goes back to her youth. Her earliest involvement in politics came during high school student when she served as lieutenant governor at Alabama Girls State, according to her official biography. In the 1960s, Ivey coordinated for Lurleen Wallace’s gubernatorial campaign at her alma mater Auburn University.

Long before entering public office, Ivey worked on her family’s cattle farm in the small town of Camden, Alabama. She eventually became a high school teacher and a bank officer before leaving banking to serve in the cabinet of then-Gov. Fob James.

When Ivey initially ran for governor in 2010 before switching to the race for lieutenant governor, she faced scrutiny for her role overseeing the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT), a program that allowed Alabama parents to pay college tuition years in advance.

After college tuition increases and stock market downturns, the program closed to new enrollment in 2008 when projections showed that the program was on its way to running out of money. The collapse of the program that thousands of parents were banking on is seen as a low point of Ivey’s political career.

But Ivey has insisted that the failure of the program was not due to her mismanagement.

“Only market conditions caused this, not staff or the board. It’s due solely to the economic conditions of the country,” Ivey said in 2003, according to the Birmingham News.

Amid the fallout, she eventually dropped out of the governor’s race and successfully ran for the lieutenant governor seat.

Now in the state’s top seat, Ivey pledged Monday to be “honest” and “open” following concerns about the lack of transparency in Bentley’s administration.

“Serving as your governor and representing the great state of Alabama is no small task. But I pledge to each of you that I will do my very best,” she said. “The Ivey administration will be open, it will be transparent and it will be honest.”