RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated as Virginia’s 74th governor Saturday, ushering in a shift in the commonwealth’s political landscape after years of Democratic control and fulfilling campaign promises he pledged to tackle on his first day in office.
Youngkin, the first Republican to win statewide office in Virginia since 2009, was sworn in after the other two candidates on the GOP ticket, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares, were inaugurated.
But the new governor said the day was not about the partisan differences in the commonwealth, vowing to be a voice and advocate for all Virginians in an inaugural address where he condemned the “toxic” nature of today’s politics.
“Today we gather, not as individuals, nor as Republicans or Democrats but as Virginians,” Gov. Youngkin said in his speech on the steps of the state’s Capitol. “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 succeeds Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who was prohibited from running for a second consecutive term by the state’s constitution, thanking the outgoing governor for his handling of the transfer of power. In his speech, Youngkin reiterated the policy initiatives he pushed for during his campaign.
He touched on his plan to establish more charter schools in Virginia, cut taxes, raise pay for teachers and law enforcement and cut regulations that Youngkin said were holding the commonwealth back.
“We will remove politics from the classroom and re-focus on essential math, science and reading,” Youngkin said to loud cheers from the crowd. “And we will teach all of our history the good and the bad.”
Not long after he was sworn in, Youngkin signed 11 executive actions that move forward some of the promises he made to supporters during and after his campaign.
They include orders banning critical race theory in public education, appointing an entirely new parole board, ending mandates on masks in schools and COVID-19 vaccines for state employees.
But questions remain on whether the new governor has the authority to implement such changes with executive orders, specifically the ban on critical race theory. The new governor’s orders could also face legal challenges that prevent Youngkin from moving forward.
Youngkin, a political newcomer and former private equity executive, began shaping out his transition team and planning the transfer of power not long after defeating former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. He tapped three former Republican Virginia governors — Robert F. McDonnell, James S. Gilmore III and George F. Allen — and also former Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder as advisors on Nov. 10.
Despite concerns over some of his picks, Youngkin has also filled out his cabinet nominees ahead of his inauguration and the start of the 2022 General Assembly session. The state legislature will have to approve the cabinet nominees before they can assume office.
Before he was even sworn in, Youngkin announced that he will seek to challenge COVID-19 vaccine mandates for large employers and most health care workers that have been announced by President Joe Biden.
The victory for Youngkin, a first-time candidate, could signal a shift in the commonwealth’s political landscape and lay out a plan for Republicans running in competitive states in the post-Trump era. The heavily nationalized election was seen as a measure of voters’ enthusiasm for Democratic control in the commonwealth.
Youngkin and other Virginia Republicans targeted policy changes enacted during the Democrats’ rein over the state legislature and top elected offices, such as several gun control measures, as an example of government overreach amid a shift in power.