Virginia’s new governor is already trying to distinguish his administration.
By James Galloway | Capital News Service
Tight security and steady rain Saturday did not dampen the spirit or the campaign promises of Democrat Terry McAuliffe as he became Virginia’s 72nd governor.
McAuliffe, who has never held elected office, won this past November’s nationally watched election against conservative, Tea Party-endorsed Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. McAuliffe succeeds Republican Bob McDonnell as governor.
McAuliffe’s national supporters include President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, for whom McAuliffe raised funds. Clinton was in prominent attendance at the inauguration, as were his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
McAuliffe took the oath of office in a formal morning suit from Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser. The entire event took place in front of the historic Capitol building designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1785 to resemble a Roman temple.
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates William Howell (R-Fredericksburg) opened the ceremony by reminding the audience of about 1,500 people they were not supposed to be using umbrellas. Members of the audience were searched by security – men in trench coats and flat-brimmed hats – sometimes more than once at the same checkpoint.
“Members and guests are reminded that you’re not supposed to be using your umbrellas,” Howell said, as it rained, heavily at times. “But if you don’t think you’re blocking anybody else’s view, it’s OK with me.”
McAuliffe’s inaugural address echoed themes from his campaign, including expansion of Medicaid, women’s rights, and gay rights.
“The Virginia way” is the national model for fiscal discipline,” McAuliffe said. “We are one of the best states to do business because we have worked together to minimize regulations and to keep taxes low.”
He also called the commonwealth’s business model “a tradition we should be so proud of.”
McAuliffe thanked former Gov. McDonnell for his leadership, noting a smooth transition into his first day as governor.
Near the end of the speech, McAuliffe reminded the public that he was about to issue an executive order putting a $100 limit on gifts to himself and other politicians.
After the ceremony, McAuliffe signed Executive Order No. 1, prohibiting workplace discrimination, with new protections for transgender people.
McAuliffe previously had told a room of reporters in December that he “would be inclined” to issue an additional executive order allowing fee waivers for Freedom of Information Act requests that fall under the “public good.” Such provisions exist in federal law but not in Virginia law. Such an executive order would protect the public from prohibitive costs associated with filing a FOIA request, which can have a chilling effect on disclosure.
The new governor is facing a 20–20 Republican-Democrat split in the Virginia Senate. He noted the value of bipartisan consensus, and again congratulated McDonnell on a job well done, referencing a major transportation bill passed with bipartisan support the previous year.
A 19-gun salute by the Virginia Army National Guard, airmen from the Virginia Air National Guard and members of the Virginia Defense Force preceded a series of appearances by religious leaders, who blessed the inauguration with ceremonial dance and speeches.
Representatives from Virginia’s 11 American Indian tribes performed a blessing march and stopped to play drums in front of the governor. Rabbi Jack Moline of the Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria gave McAuliffe his blessing in a speech.