Robert McDonnell is sworn in as Virginia governor

In a busy week in Richmond, newly elected politicians are sworn in as the Virginia General Assembly session opens, Gov. Tim Kaine gives his final State of the Commonwealth address, and Republican Robert F. McDonnell takes the governor's office.
By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 17, 2010

RICHMOND -- Robert Francis McDonnell was sworn in as Virginia's 71st governor on Saturday and immediately laid out his vision of a new Republicanism. He affirmed that government has a role in creating opportunity, but a limited one; pledged to drill offshore for oil, but in an environmentally friendly way; and urged all Virginians to contribute their cultures and traditions to the state's increasing diversity.

McDonnell said that creating jobs was the "obligation of our time" and that he would ease regulations and lower taxes on businesses. He promised to put more money into classrooms, try to add 100,000 college degrees during the next 15 years, improve the state's transportation network and use what he described as Virginia's God-given wealth of resources to make it the "Energy Capital of the East Coast."

In a 22-minute speech that evoked the legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, McDonnell said that it is the rightful role of government to create opportunity for all Virginians but that it is up to individuals to fulfill that opportunity.

"The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper and efficient role of government," McDonnell said before a crowd of thousands at the South Portico of the state's historic Capitol.

Shortly after being sworn in, McDonnell signed two executive orders that underscored the main themes of his speech. One named a chief job creation officer and established an economic development and job creation commission. The other established a commission on government reform.

McDonnell made no mention of divisive social issues, and his speech included little partisan talk. Instead, it was full of references to Democrats, including President Obama, former president John F. Kennedy, former governor L. Douglas Wilder and McDonnell's predecessor, Timothy M. Kaine. Yet, McDonnell did not stray from core conservative beliefs, stressing the need to keep taxes low, regulation at a minimum and federal mandates scarce.

"No federal mandate nor program crafted by either political party should undermine the central principle of federalism, enshrined in the birth certificate of America by those who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor," he said.

His speech was well received by Republicans, and parts were praised by Democrats, including state legislators who returned to Richmond last week for a 60-day session and will begin working with the new governor right away.

House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) praised the speech for laying out Republicans ideals: "Limited government. Relying on individual effort and entrepreneurship to move the ball forward, and also that the government can't do everything, so you ought to be encouraged to contribute."

Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) said the speech "had a very solid Democratic Party theme to it: the progressive ideas and the opportunity and the outreach." But he said: "The only question is, how do you pay for all those wonderful ideas? I sort of left the speech with the sense that he would like to be progressive and make things happen. But he's going to be faced with the same challenges that faced Tim Kaine. You've got an economy that simply won't allow it."

McDonnell, the state's first Republican governor in eight years, takes office in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He faces a projected two-year, $4.2 billion shortfall in the state budget and a political culture in Richmond beset by the same partisan infighting that in many ways stymied his Democratic predecessor.

McDonnell, 55, took the oath of office at 12:30 p.m., minutes after Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, who were part of November's victorious Republican ticket.

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