Gerald L. Baliles became governor of Virginia today, saying that he and his running mates, the first black and woman sworn in to statewide office, symbolize a "New Dominion . . . . free from old stereotypes and from the fearful prejudice which once paralyzed our progress."
At a historic inauguration, the governor praised his Democratic colleagues, Lt. Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, grandson of a slave, and Attorney General Mary Sue Terry. Their new jobs, Baliles said, are an illustration that "Virginia is leading the nation again."
Baliles, a 45-year-old lawyer from Richmond, told a crowd of more than 15,000 at the State Capitol that education will be the top priority of his four years in office and pledged an administration that will combine "fiscal responsibility with a social conscience."
The governor, who was elected state attorney general four years ago on a Democratic ticket headed by Charles S. Robb, also praised his predecessor for a "rare combination of leadership and stewardship that will rank him among our greatest governors."
Neither Wilder, 54, nor Terry, 38, spoke at the noon ceremony. Wilder, a state senator and Richmond lawyer who was regarded as a long shot when he began his campaign, received the largest round of applause when he was introduced to take his oath. Said former lieutenant governor Henry E. Howell of Norfolk, a longtime champion of liberal causes, "I never thought I'd live to see this day."
Wilder's day was tarnished by disclosure that he had been accused by a Richmond building inspector of violating the state building code by owning an "unsafe and hazardous" vacant row house in Richmond.
A Wilder aide, Joel Harris, said tonight that a title to the house was transferred Nov. 29 to a new owner, H. Louis Salomonsky, a Richmond architect. Harris said the recording of the sale "is up to the buyer," and he did not know when that had occurred "except it happened before" the latest news story.
The new governor noted he and his running mates had lived through some of Virginia's most divisive times. "All of us who take the oath of statewide office today were children and students in the Virginia of the 1950s," he said. "We had no part in shaping that divisive and often bitter time; we do not look backward in anger, but forward in hope."
In a 14-minute speech interrupted by applause nine times, Baliles, who campaigned as a fiscal moderate and as the rightful successor to Robb, praised the state's voters for declining "the temptation to misuse conservatism as an excuse for indifference."
Legislators, who listened to the address on bleachers built against the north face of the Capitol, predicted that Baliles will stress both conservative fiscal polices and social responsibility as governor.
"Nobody has been as explicit as Jerry about pushing fiscal policies and running government with a social conscience," said Sen. Joseph V. Gartlan Jr. (D-Fairfax). "Too many others were just interested in fiscal conservatism at the expense of any social conscience."
Baliles "pledged to keep taxes down," but he added that "an efficient government can be a concerned government -- that while we cannot afford or accomplish everything, there is much that we can and must do to keep Virginia on the move."
A number of legislators interpreted the comments to mean that Baliles may seek a tax increase. "I was intrigued by the reference to keeping taxes down, instead of saying there'll be no tax increase," said Gartlan.
Baliles said his "New Dominion," the slogan of his successful fall campaign against Republican Wyatt B. Durrette, will lead the nation in education and transportation.
He repeated his promise to fund fully the state minimum requirements for public schools, the state's Standards of Quality. "We must seek and recruit the best teachers for our children," Baliles said. "We will strengthen our colleges and universities, for the most important investment we can make is in the human capital of intellect and invention."
State government, he said, must "produce an integrated approach to the problems of public transportation, highways and roads, our air, water and rail systems . . . . We must plan for and invest in transportation systems. It is the roadway to the future."
"He made the point that we've got to do something about transportation," said Sen. Clive L. DuVal II (D-Fairfax). Duval said that this was important because Robb had "purposely left it [transportation] blank" in his final address to the legislature.
Lawmakers who served through the Robb administration say they expect Baliles to attempt to step outside of Robb's shadow in forging his own mark on state government. They describe Baliles as more detail oriented than Robb.
Republicans said they will be much quicker to launch political attacks on Baliles than they were with the popular Robb. "The Republicans gave Robb a free ride," said J. Marshall Coleman of McLean, a former state attorney general and unsuccessful candidate for governor against Robb. "That's going to change with Baliles."
Baliles will spell out details of the programs he mentioned today in his maiden speech as governor to the General Assembly on Monday. He touched briefly today on the questions of the environment, crime, economic development and the needy.
About prisons, the Achilles' heel of the Robb years, which included the largest escape from death row in the nation's history, he said: "Every person sent to prison must entertain no hope of escape," adding to laughter: "In Virginia, there will be no such thing as do-it-yourself parole."
Baliles tied improved conditions for the poor and needy to economic development. He pledged to "help the weak, never exile them . . . or treat them as scapegoats," but he called economic development "the most powerful social program we can ever have."
The first official acts of the new governor were to sign three executive orders. The first reaffirmed state government's commitment to equal employment opportunities; another called for an efficiency study of state government, and the third restricted the power of his chief of staff, David K. McCloud, who served in that job under Robb, by eliminating the position of chairman of the cabinet.
Press secretary Chris Bridge said the third order will "show that this is not Robb II" and will allow Baliles to deal directly with his cabinet of three men and three women, who were sworn in shortly after today's ceremony.