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Prayers, parties mark the day before state inaugurations

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Prayers and parties highlighted the Sunday before inauguration day, with Republican Gov. Bob Riley calling for prayer before his big day on Monday and Democrats taking their turn in the inaugural spotlight with parties Sunday night.

Riley held a prayer breakfast Sunday morning with about 700 people — a repeat of how he began his first inauguration four years ago. The church-like event at a Montgomery hotel featured upbeat gospel music and three ministers.

Riley, who began his first term by asking Alabamians to pray for him, used the prayer breakfast to ask for more.

“There are times when you can absolutely can feel those prayers. Patsy and I talked about it. At strange times, you’ll be riding down the road, but you can actually feel the people of Alabama praying. That’s what gives me an advantage over every other governor, I believe, in America,” Riley said.

On Monday, the inaugural spotlight will be on Riley, who will speak from the Capitol steps about his goals for a second term.

His inaugural chairman, state Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn said the governor chose the theme “Believe in Alabama” because he wants to reflect on the successes of the last four years — from a record budget deficit to record size state budgets, from an economic slowdown to record law employment — and he wants to encourage Alabamians to believe in even better times ahead for the state.

After Riley’s speech and an inaugural parade, he will head to Birmingham for his inaugural ball featuring country singer Sara Evans and the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra.

Democratic winners chose to do their celebrating Sunday night, with Lt. Gov-elect Jim Folsom Jr. and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks each having parties in downtown Montgomery.

“We tried to do ours so it wouldn’t conflict with the governor’s,” Folsom said while attending Riley’s breakfast.

Riley’s inaugural activities stretched from a Friday night party at the Governor’s Mansion to the ball Monday night. Hubbard said at Riley’s request, the event list is shorter and less costly than the $1.24 million inauguration staged had four years ago. He estimated the final cost will be between $900,000 and $1 million.

State officials get no tax money to stage their inaugural festivities and must raise the money through ticket sales and donations.

Donors to Riley’s inauguration included some of Alabama’s biggest corporations, law firms and lobbying groups.

Donating $50,000 each were Alabama Power Co., AT&T, Balch and Bingham law firm, and Regions Financial Corp., Hubbard said.

Chipping in $25,000 each were the Alabama Association of Realtors, Alabama Association of Road Builders, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Boeing, Bradley Arant law firm, Credit Union Coalition of Alabama, EADS, HDI Solutions, Medical Association of the State of Alabama, Northrop Grumman and Miller Development Group.

Donating $15,000 were EDS (a technology services firm) and Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.

Forty other businesses and associations gave between $5,000 and $10,000 each.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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