Ralph Northam sworn in as Virginia's 73rd governor
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Democrat Ralph Northam is now Virginia's 73rd governor. The 58-year-old physician and statesman took the oath of office at the Capitol on Saturday.
Cold, blustery weather didn't keep thousands of supporters from attending. Nine previous governors witnessed the ceremony: Terry McAuliffe, Bob McDonnell, Gerald Baliles, Doug Wilder, George Allen, Chuck Robb and now U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. Congress members Barbara Comstock, Bobby Scott, Dave Brat, Don Beyer and Donald McEachin also attended.
The ceremony began with the swearing in of Attorney General Mark Herring, followed by Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
Then Dr. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist from the Eastern Shore and former State Senator and Lt. Governor, took the oath of office.
Family friend and retired Circuit Court Judge Glen Tyler quipped, "Sir, are you prepared to take the oath?" To which Northam responded, "Yes, sir, I am!"
Governor Ralph Northam said in his inaugural address that Virginia has come a very long way, and the state has a diverse history.
The theme of this Inauguration was "The Way Ahead," which represented Northam's vision of unity and working together and leading with bipartisan, common sense solutions that lift up all people, no matter who you are or where you're from.
"This unique heritage endows us with a responsibility to shape the future—to leave this place better than we found it," Northam said.
He described advice his father gave him growing up, to keep an eye on his compass "if things get dark or foggy."
He called for both political parties to find the way ahead by working together and not let "nasty, shallow tweets" replace "honest debate."
"If you've felt that way, I want you to listen to me right now. We are bigger than this," he said.
Northam then told the audience he plans to govern the same way he serves patients as a doctor: by listening to what patients are saying, or not saying, to determine what they need.
He received a standing ovation from the audience when he called for expanding Medicaid.
"We're going in the wrong direction on healthcare in Virginia and America. More people need coverage, not less," said Northam.
He also made promises, to be honest, put Virginia first, and keep his door open.
"Here are my personal commitments to you. I will always tell the truth," he said to a cheering crowd.
Northam closed with the story of a patient - a boy with autism - that he couldn't help. The boy's mother told Northam he took away their hope. That taught him the responsibility of preserving hope in the people he serves.
"Hope is not just a source of comfort for the afflicted – it is a wellspring of energy to fight for a better tomorrow, no matter the odds," he said.
Then Northam called on Virginians to work together toward the way ahead.
"Let us rely on the compass we all carry to show us the way ahead. I ask you to join me. Let's get to work."
After his speech, the inaugural parade took place, moving east from Grace Street and navigated throughout Capitol Square. Highlights included 1,500 Virginia Military Institute cadets, NASA, and the fastest oyster shucker in Virginia, Deborah Pratt.
Northam was the first governor that is a VMI graduate in more than a century. The governor is also a pediatric neurologist at the hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk. Representatives from the hospital were in the parade as well.
After Governor Northam was sworn in, he signed three executive orders.
INAUGURATION 2018: More Political News Here
Northam announced in a joint press conference with outgoing Governor McAuliffe what his top priorities will be this General Assembly session.
- Expanding Medicaid to nearly 400,000 Virginians
- Universal background checks for gun purchases
- No-excuse absentee voting
- Formally joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)
- Banning personal use of campaign contributions
- Raising the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $1,000
- Instituting a student Borrowers Bill of Rights and creating a state ombudsman who can help borrowers understand their payments
- Support for the Whole Women's Health Act
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