RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe pledged to find common ground after officially taking the oath of office Saturday and becoming the state of Virginia's 72nd governor on a rainy day outside the state Capitol building designed by Thomas Jefferson.
"It is humbling, and the highest honor of my life, to stand before you today," Mr. McAuliffe said before a crowd of thousands.Mr. McAuliffe devoted his approximately 16-minute inaugural address to highlighting the history of obstacles the state has overcome, first during the American Revolution, and now, as the commonwealth works its way out of the throes of an economic recession.Mr. McAuliffe praised the oft-cited "Virginia Way" — of putting results ahead of politics — and complimented predecessors like L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, for helping shepherd the tradition forward."But it is also a tradition that must be sustained through constant work by leaders who choose progress over ideology," he said." Common ground doesn't move towards us, we move towards it."
He complimented his immediate predecessor, former Gov. Bob McDonnell, for helping invest in the state's transportation system, as well as former Govs. and current U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for their stewardship of the state.Former Govs. James S. Gilmore III and George Allen, both Republicans, were also on hand — as were President Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for whom Mr. McAuliffe has helped raise millions of dollars during his career as a prolific Democratic fundraiser.Also in attendance were Huma Abedin, a longtime aide and friend of Mrs. Clinton, and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, a veteran of the Clinton White House.
Mr. McAuliffe pledged to ease the transition of returning servicemen and women, invest in the state's community college system, and signed an executive order Saturday imposing a $100 gift limit on himself, his family, and his administration and creating a commission in the Executive Branch to oversee the order — an outgrowth of a scandal involving a wealthy campaign donor that has overshadowed much of Mr. McDonnell's final year in office.He also reiterated his campaign pledges to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled, and diversify the state's economy.
"My administration will work tirelessly to ensure that those opportunities are equal for all of Virginia's children – no matter if you're a girl or a boy, no matter what part of the Commonwealth you live in, your race or religion...no matter who you love," he said.
Soon after the ceremony, Mr. McAuliffe signed Executive Order No. 1, which prohibits discrimination in the state workforce based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, or otherwise qualified people with disabilities.
In including the section on sexual orientation, Mr. McAuliffe followed in the footsteps of his Democratic predecessors Mr. Kaine and Mr. Warner. But the order also protects transgender people for the first time as well.
Saturday's events also included a prayer breakfast and parade, and were to include an Executive Mansion open house and inaugural ball.
"As I said on election night, the test of my commitment to finding common ground in Virginia will not be a speech at an inauguration; it will be my actions in office," he said in his address. "And I expect those who did not support me in November to hold me to my word.
Mr. McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee whose job as governor is his first in elected office, won election in November in a race against former Republican attorney general Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II and Libertarian Robert Sarvis.
Lieutenant Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring were also sworn in on Saturday. The Democratic sweep in November gives the party control of the top three statewide elected offices in Virginia for the first time in more than two decades.
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