By Eva McKend, CNN
Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity co-CEO who has never served in elected office before, was sworn in as the 74th Governor of Virginia Saturday afternoon; the first Republican to do so in the Commonwealth since 2010.
“In this last election, we heard from more voters than ever before, 25% more, nearly 3.3 million Virginians who sent us here on a mission to restore trust in government, and to restore power to the people,” Youngkin said in his inaugural address after taking the oath of office.
Youngkin won in November’s gubernatorial election against Democrat Terry McAuliffe while keeping former President Donald Trump at arm’s length and appealing to the Republican base by centering so-called election integrity, criticizing how the impact of racism is taught in public schools and emphasizing protecting qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
“We heard from more voters than ever before … we stand here today as messengers of that movement. Entrusted to protect liberty create opportunity & build unity for hard work ahead,” Youngkin said.
His inauguration, themed “Strengthen the Spirit of Virginia Together,” was attended by some notable national Republican figures including RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, former head of the Heritage Foundation Kay Coles James, former EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler and former Secretary of Transportation and wife to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao.
Several receptions took place prior to the inaugural ceremony at the state Capitol in Richmond. Some of those events include a prayer breakfast, a dinner at the Science Museum of Virginia and a women’s tea hosted by incoming Virginia first lady Suzanne Youngkin. A parade will immediately follow the swearing-in ceremony where parade participants will march through Capitol Square.
“The theme for inauguration weekend celebrates Virginia’s spirit—one linked to a rich history, but an even more exciting future as Virginians come together to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” the Governor-elect and incoming first lady said.
His predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, declared a state of emergency on Friday in anticipation of a storm expected to hit the state this weekend. Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said the governor-elect received briefings from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and “is actively coordinating with them on procedures for the incoming weather.”
Youngkin faces a number of other immediate challenges after he takes the oath of office, including guiding the state through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and figuring out how to best mitigate record inflation. He plans to move forward with a host of pandemic-related executive actions including repealing the vaccine mandate for state workers and mask requirements set in place by Northam. The Virginia Department of Health currently requires masking in K-12 schools and on public transportation.
During the campaign, the 55-year-old ran on a “Day One” game plan, which included eliminating Virginia’s grocery tax, firing the parole board and creating new charter schools among other pledges.
Youngkin’s first round of executive actions included a repeal of mask and vaccine mandates.
“We will remove politics from classrooms … we will teach all of our history good and bad,” Youngkin also said in a nod to his executive action regarding critical race theory in Virginia classrooms.
“There’s no place for critical race theory in our school system, and that’s why, on day one, I’m going to ban it,” Youngkin said in an interview with Fox News in the closing days of the campaign last fall.
Those were among the nine executive orders and two executive directives Youngkin signed Saturday, according to a news release.
The Governor-elect has spent the last several weeks announcing key roles in his administration. Among the most high-profile picks includes Andrew Wheeler, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator under the Trump administration, for natural resources secretary. Wheeler has already met resistance from Virginia Democrats.
Youngkin’s victory in November marked a dramatic shift in fortune for Virginia Republicans, just a year after President Joe Biden won the state by 10 points. The party will now have control over the governor’s mansion, the lieutenant governor’s office, the attorney general’s office and the House of Delegates.
Republicans across the country may try to replicate his campaign strategy of tepidly distancing themselves from Trump in the 2022 midterm elections. He received praise in November at the Republican Governors Association meeting for his ability to win a heavily Democratic state by focusing on education and public safety. Republicans are defending 20 governorships this year and hope to make progress in blue states.
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