RICHMOND, Va. — Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and rainmaker for Bill and Hillary Clinton, was sworn in as Virginia’s 72nd governor on a mild and misty Saturday.
In an inaugural address on the south portico of the state Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson, McAuliffe emphasized bipartisanship as he puts several years of campaigning behind him and turns to the more challenging task of leading a politically divided government. Republicans have firm control of the House of Delegates, while the outcome of two special elections will determine control of the Senate.
“Common ground doesn’t move towards us, we move towards it,” McAuliffe told a crowd of thousands, including the Clintons.
The state will face “serious economic headwinds” over the next four years, he said, and skeptics are predicting partisan gridlock.
“Virginia, together, we will prove them wrong again,” he said.
McAuliffe, 56, made a brief pitch for one of his top legislative priorities — expanding Medicaid to about 400,000 low-income Virginians under the federal health care reform law. The proposal faces a tough hurdle in the GOP-controlled House.
“Like the majority of other states, we need to act on the consensus of the business community and health care industry to accept funding that will expand health care coverage, save rural hospitals, and spur job creation,” the governor said.
He also commended legislators for reaching a bipartisan compromise on ethics reform prompted by the ongoing state and federal investigations into thousands of dollars in gifts and loans outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and his family received from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific Inc. McAuliffe said he will ask lawmakers to “enact the strongest possible new ethics rules to hold all Virginia elected officials to the highest of standards.”
The day’s festivities started with a prayer breakfast and were to continue to a parade in downtown Richmond, an open house at the Executive Mansion and an inaugural ball.
McAuliffe unsuccessfully sought his party’s nomination for governor in 2009. He spent the next four years touring Virginia and campaigning, then won his first elective office by narrowly defeating Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The Syracuse, N.Y., native’s ticket mates also won, giving Democrats their first sweep of Virginia’s top three statewide offices in 24 years. Mark Herring was sworn in as attorney general and Ralph Northam as lieutenant governor.