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 rainy Saturday.
In an inaugural address on the south portico of the state Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson, McAuliffe emphasized bipartisanship as he put several years of campaigning behind him to begin 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 drenched crowd that included the Clintons, who huddled under a black umbrella until the rain stopped and the sun briefly peeked out during the new governor’s speech.
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The state will face “serious economic headwinds” over the next four years, McAuliffe said, and skeptics are predicting partisan gridlock.
“Virginia, together, we will prove them wrong again,” he said.
It was one of several references to consensus building that McAuliffe sprinkled throughout a 16-minute speech that drew praise from Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I was very moved by it,” she told reporters as she exited through the Capitol.
McAuliffe’s remarks promoting gay rights and abortion rights drew some of the loudest cheers. He said his administration would work to ensure equal opportunity for all “no matter whom you love,” and to protect women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.
Among his early priorities, McAuliffe has pledged to reinstate former Gov. Tim Kaine’s order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees.
Immediately following his remarks, McAuliffe placed his left hand on the Bible and was sworn in by Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Cynthia Kinser, McDonnell and his wife Maureen stood and walked up the stairs and through the Capitol to an uncertain future.
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.
McAuliffe defeated outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a hero of among anti-gay conservatives who describes homosexuality as “intrinsically wrong,” and “against nature and harmful to society.”