Ralph Northam was sworn in as Virginia’s 73rd governor at the State Capitol Saturday in a ceremony in which Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring also took the oath of office as Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General respectively.
Northam promised bipartisan efforts in the 2018 General Assembly session in his Inaugural Address, despite Democrats winning all three statewide seats in last November’s elections.
“Virginians didn’t send us here to be Republicans or Democrats,” Northam said. “They sent us here to solve problems.”
The Norfolk native said he was dedicated to the values he held as a U.S. Army doctor and pediatric surgeon — positions he had prior to becoming governor. He promised to tackle the opioid epidemic, gun violence, Medicaid expansion, homelessness among veterans and income inequality.
“The solutions to these problems are not easy. But we do know what they are. The way ahead starts with access to quality health care and public education for every Virginian, no matter whom they are or where they live,” Northam said. “It depends on smart interventions in the case of addiction or mental health challenges and a focused economic development strategy that connects the right people with the right skills and the right jobs.”
Susan Frances Kaufman, a Virginia Beach resident and Northam campaign volunteer, said she supports Northam’s position on health care and hopes he will bring money back to Hampton Roads.
“I know Northam can make an impact. I know he’s worked with children and he’s seen the devastating effect of not having Medicaid expansion in Virginia,” Kaufman said. “We’ve been basically giving money away and killing our own children. He was on the front lines.”
The largest inaugural parade in Virginia’s history followed the ceremony. Twenty-six groups marched, including the Virginia Military Institute Corp of Cadets. Northam is a VMI graduate.
Shortly after taking office, Northam signed three executive orders which outlawed discrimination in state jobs, enumerated the powers and responsibilities of his chief of staff, Clark Mercer, and empowered the governor to declare a state of emergency.
Northam made history with the first majority-female cabinet in Virginia.
“The country is once again looking to Virginia to lead the way,” Northam said. “Let us lead with humility and optimism, telling the truth, learning from history and removing every obstacle to progress for all Virginians.”
Sararose Martin, News Editor
Photos by Erin Edgerton, Photography Editor