RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – “As the storm clouds gather,” belted the strong voices of the Virginia State University Gospel Chorale, singing for the new day that Terence R. McAuliffe ushered in as the 72nd governor of Virginia.
It was the appropriate line for a stormy day that would later bring tornado warnings to Central Virginia.
The song was God Bless America; the speech after the swearing-in was an optimistic one with moments clearly aimed at McAuliffe’s Democratic base. With a blessing of the voters, Democrats now control the state’s top three offices for the first time since 1989.
Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring were also sworn in Saturday.
Loud applause welcomed the Clintons as they walked through the portico and down the steps to front of the podium, situated just to the right and behind McAuliffe.
A black umbrella embossed with the Jefferson Hotel logo, where many guests stayed the night before, hid the Clintons from sight most of the event.
A silver flash of Mr. Clinton’s hair was visible occasionally, and at the end of McAuliffe’s inaugural address Mr. Clinton beamed a smile of approval.
The governor’s speech began with a recognition of the Commonwealth’s history and traditions, an even earlier version of said history later echoed in the drumming, and dancing of 11 different representatives of Virginia’s Native American tribes as they offered a blessing of the grounds.
Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, keeping with tradition, left to a 21-gun salute, just before McAuliffe delivered the address.
Yet the former governor’s presence was felt when McAuliffe called for leaders to act more ethically.
“I will sign an executive order later today enforcing strict rules on gifts on me or my administration,” he said.
During his speech, McAuliffe praised his Republican predecessor, and directed a call for bi-partisanship to members of the Senate and the House of Delegates in attendance
“We will live up to their expectations of consensus driven progress,” McAuliffe said in his speech to the poncho-adorned masses, the sun making its one appearance of the day as the newly elected governor took to the podium.
“In Virginia, political progress in divided government is a tradition that we must continue,” McAuliffe said. “I will work to live up to that tradition.”
McAuliffe highlighted the need to be more inclusive in all arenas, and said “We need to ensure someone can’t lose their job because they are gay.”
Later in the day, at 2:45 p.m., he would sign an executive order to protect lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender state workers from discrimination in the work place. This was an order previously established by former Governor Tim Kaine and overturned by McDonnell.
His disposition seemed to reflect what supporters say is his greatest strength–optimism.
Despite a long career in politics, McAuliffe has never held any public office, though the public in attendance were clearly won over by the candidate.
The packed bleachers held a sea of people in colorful ponchos and umbrellas that punctuated the foggy day, throughout the rain and even lightning.
“Terry McAuliffe is awesome, I’m so excited he won the governorship,” Cynthia Bhatnagar, former Campaign Manager for Ed Deitsch, said. “We worked really hard from the beginning for him, and we’re really glad that he’s going to be in the mansion.”
“I know it’s pouring down rain, but it’s really an important day,” she said.
The pomp and circumstance hit a sunny note as around 30 organizations marched in front of the podium after the address, parading in front of the governor and First Family, on through the roundabout at the Executive Mansion, down 9th Street and up E. Franklin Street.
The governor’s family and friends donned red hats that they were given with the “Virginia is for Lovers” slogan.
For the first time ever a gay and lesbian group was invited to the inaugural parade. Fittingly, Equality Virginia marched just behind the huge balloon that also boasted the state tourism slogan.
Afterward McAuliffe answered a few questions from reporters who rushed the podium, and he extended his condolences towards fallen soldiers, and the Virginia State Police officer Sgt. J. Michael Phillippi who died earlier that morning in a traffic accident.
“I’m thinking about all the folks out there who put their lives on the line every single day for us, and we need to be there for them,” McAuliffe said.
Two were orders of government continuity, for essential operations.
One addressed ethics reform with gift limitations and the other–as mentioned previously—created workplace protection for LGBT persons.
McAuliffe, who started Saturday with a prayer breakfast, wrapped up his first day as governor by dancing up a storm with his family.
Virginia State Police said that more than 3,000 people were in attendance for the inaugural ball, held at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center.
Among those attending for the price of $75 a ticket were Mayor Dwight Jones, who proclaimed “the next 24 hours “McAuliffeville.”
The new governor, clad in a tuxedo, had more moves in him than he did voice–which was hoarse by the time he took stage around 10:30 p.m.
He delivered brief remarks in his trademark gushing, cheerful manner, even calling the rain “beautiful,” and noting that it “was great for the plants.”
The first dance with his wife, who wore a green gown, was to the soul classic, “Higher and Higher.”
Despite the long day, McAuliffe let loose on the dance floor, to his own unique grooves.
Sunday the First Lady stepped forward into the spotlight as she hosted a luncheon at the Science Museum of Virginia. She unveiled her focus for the next four years — healthy eating.
Mrs. McAuliffe said the best way to teach healthy eating is to start while a child is young.