Glenn Youngkin was sworn into office Saturday as Virginia’s 74th governor in a midday inauguration ceremony in Richmond.
The former private equity executive, and the first Republican to win statewide office in Virginia since 2009, had a message of unity in his address to the crowd gathered before Virginia’s State Capitol.
“My fellow Virginians, I come to this moment into this office knowing that we must bind the wounds of division, restore trust, find common cause for the common good, and strengthen the spirit of Virginia,” he said. “The spirit of Virginia is not a spirit that is rested in government telling us what is best for us, but rather reflecting the will of the people, defending and protecting the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”
Mr. Youngkin’s popularity propelled Republicans to a majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Democrats remain in control in the state Senate. He succeeds Democratic incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam.
Mr. Youngkin’s race against Democrat Terry McAuliffe drove massive GOP turnout at the polls in November, solidifying Mr. Youngkin’s come-from-behind victory in a state that President Biden carried by 10 percentage points in 2020.
Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate, intent on flipping control of Congress in the GOP’s favor, remain hopeful that Mr. Youngkin’s rise to the governor’s mansion is a harbinger of what is to come in the 2022 midterms.
Mr. Youngkin, a political outsider before entering the race, overcame Mr. McAuliffe’s significant backing by Democratic heavyweights to secure the election.
President Biden campaigned on behalf of Mr. McAuliffe as November approached, but ultimately failed to spur Democratic enthusiasm. Mr. McAuliffe blamed Mr. Biden’s lackluster performance, in part, for his defeat.
Mr. McAuliffe attempted to revive the anti-Trump rhetoric that propelled the incumbent Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam to victory in 2017. But with Mr. Trump out of the White House, the message fell flat.
Mr. Youngkin kept the former president at arm’s length after receiving his endorsement, opting not to campaign with Mr. Trump and refusing to fully embrace Mr. Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Mr. Youngkin emphasized local issues and tapped into parents’ growing frustration with education officials, as debates over critical race theory and COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia schools made national headlines.
The two candidates sparred throughout the race over the role parents have in their children’s education.
Mr. Youngkin advocated for parents’ role in shaping curriculum, while Mr. McAuliffe argued that teachers and school officials should have the final say.
Mr. McAuliffe sealed his fate in the final debate when he stated, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” a line that went on to be featured prominently in Mr. Youngkin‘s campaign ads.
The debate over education was featured prominently in Mr. Youngkin‘s speech Saturday.
“Parents should have a say in what is taught in schools,” he said. “In Virginia, parents have a fundamental right to make decisions with regard to their child’s upbringing, education, and care. To parents, I say we respect you and we will empower you in the education of your children.”
“We will remove politics from the classroom,” Mr. Youngkin said. “And we will focus on essential math, science, and reading and we will teach all of our history — the good and the bad.”
— Kerry Picket, Mica Soellner and Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.