Facing likely impeachment and possible criminal charges, Bentley resigned as governor of Alabama and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors stemming from his efforts to extricate himself from a scandal over his relationship with former aide Rebekah Mason. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was then sworn in as the state’s new chief executive, becoming only the second woman to ever hold Alabama’s highest office. Bentley’s resignation capped a remarkable fall from grace for the dermatologist-turned-governor from Tuscaloosa, whose good name, marriage and political future were all swept aside by the salacious story of a septuagenarian Baptist grandfather of seven carrying on with a married mother of three who is nearly three decades his junior. Under terms of a plea deal, Bentley avoids jail time and keeps his medical license, but he is barred from seeking political office again. Ivey said her first priorities would be to “steady the ship of state and improve Alabama’s image.” (Posted April 11)
After a year of turmoil and economic losses, North Carolina legislators have passed a bill that rolls back HB2, which prohibited transgendered people from using restrooms in public facilities that didn’t conform with their their birth gender. However, the compromise hammered out by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and GOP legislature leaders also forbids local jurisdictions in North Carolina from passing non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ people until at least 2020, a compromise being criticized by LGBTQ advocates. Cooper, propelled to office on a pledge to repeal HB2, said the compromise wasn’t perfect but “begins to repair our reputation.” (Posted March 30)
Both the Democratic and Republican parties in Virginia are facing the same establishment-versus-insurgent battles in the upcoming governor’s primaries that characterized the 2016 presidential contest. Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam was cruising to his party’s nomination until former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello jumped into the race. On the Republican side, Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, is being challenged by Donald Trump’s former Virginia campaign chairman, a veteran state senator and a Tea Party-aligned businessman whose campaign is led by the manager who helped take down Eric Cantor in 2014. A February 2 poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy showed Gillespie and Northam leading but most voters still undecided. (Posted February 2)
Republican Henry McMaster has taken the reins as the new governor of South Carolina, after outgoing Governor Nikki Haley’s confirmation to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. McMaster, who had served as lieutenant governor since 2011, was sworn in during a brief ceremony inside the South Carolina State House on January 24, shortly after the U.S. Senate voted 96 to 4 to confirm Haley and she resigned the governorship. McMaster, 69, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general, has been lieutenant governor since 2015. He is expected to seek a full term as governor in 2018. (Posted January 25).
In his inaugural address, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a call to end the Tar Heel State’s contentious politics but also vowed to repeal a bill restricting use of public restroom facilities by transgendered people. “I don’t think anyone believes that North Carolina families sit around the kitchen table every night thinking that their lives would change for the better if only the legislature would spend its time on the hot-button social issues of the day,” Cooper said in a television address after a snowstorm wiped out public inaugural events. Cooper, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory in November. (Posted January 9)