RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s new governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin, pledged to “restore trust in government and to restore power to the people” as he was sworn into office Saturday in Richmond.
“Today we stand together on behalf of Virginians who’ve never lost faith, even when they suffered loss. Of Virginians who have not stopped dreaming of a better life, even in the midst of trials and tribulation,” he said in front of the historic state Capitol to thousands of enthusiastic spectators. “My fellow Virginians, the spirit of Virginia is alive and well. And together we will strengthen it.”
“No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate, your voice, your governor,” said Youngkin, a former private-equity executive with the Carlyle Group /zigman2/quotes/200142014/composite CG -0.23% and a newcomer to electoral politics who neither welcomed nor disavowed the backing of former president Donald Trump.
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The incumbent Trump lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 10.1 percentage points in November 2020, and Democrats have carried the state in every presidential election dating to President Barack Obama’s first campaign.
Youngkin’s inaugural speech was part of a weekend of pomp and circumstance as Virginia’s newly elected Republican leaders took office. In addition to Youngkin, Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears were sworn in during an outdoor ceremony.
The moment opens a new chapter of governance in a state where Democrats spent the past two years in full control.
Youngkin spoke of the hardships caused by COVID-19 over the last two years and pledged to lead the state as the virus continues to rage.
“We stand here on Jan. 15, 2022, filled with hope and optimism for the years ahead. This hope and optimism springs from a shared vision of the future, and also from knowing what we have been through,” he said. “We are acutely aware of the struggles Virginians have endured over the last two years, struggles that we continue to face.”
Youngkin also sounded his campaign themes, pledging to cut taxes, “remove politics from the classroom,” raise teacher and law enforcement pay, and boost the economy. He also pledged to keep children in schools, even as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is surging in Virginia and around the country, emphasizing the importance of in-person education.
“We know that when our children don’t go to school it harms their learning and development. So let me be clear — we must keep our children in school five days a week,” he said.
Youngkin followed up by signing a flurry of vaguely worded executive orders and executive directives referencing campaign promises in such areas as mask mandates in schools and the teaching in public schools of American history in accordance with tenets of “critical race theory.”
The high-performing school districts in Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria, and multiple others, swiftly signaled their masking practices would remain in place, gubernatorial transition notwithstanding.
Youngkin responded with a threat to withhold state resources from school districts that chose not to shift to a masks-optional approach.
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He also moved to pull the commonwealth out of a regional greenhouse-gas consortium.