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McAuliffe Touts Bipartisanship, But Faces Uphill Battle - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

McAuliffe Touts Bipartisanship, But Faces Uphill Battle

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Hot off a close win at the polls Tuesday, Virginia's next governor - former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe - made the pilgrimage to Richmond Wednesday afternoon to begin a two-month transition into the executive mansion.

The learning curve for McAuliffe will start in very much the same way his campaign ended - shaking hands and making phone calls. But this time he's not out to sway voters, but forge fast friendships with lawmakers.

At a press conference inside the state capitol, McAuliffe repeated his commitment to bipartisanship."This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a strong relationship amongst leaders in Richmond of both parties," he said.

"I think the main message that came out of last night is that they want folks working together in a bipartisan, mainstream, pragmatic way."

McAuliffe has almost exactly two months before his January 8 inauguration to get himself up to speed. McAuliffe chose famed Albemarle County author John Grisham and his wife to serve on his inauguration committee. He also tapped Richmond Delegate Jennifer McClellan to help lead his transition team, and choose a cabinet that reflects Virginia's diverse population.

"We elected a governor for all of Virginia, not just for one party," McClellan said. "Now that the campaign is over, it's time to govern."

But governing will come with a set of unique challenges for McAuliffe. First, he has never held elected office, and will need to hit the ground running to form relationships with lawmakers - especially Republicans - before the 2014 General Assembly session.

"I have spent the morning reaching out to Republican Senators and House of Delegates members, and I've connected with many. And I will continue that process," he said.

But it will be an uphill battle for the governor-elect. Many Republican lawmakers are wary of his push to expand Medicaid, and House Speaker Bill Howell says he wants to see more specific details about some of McAuliffe's other policy proposals. McAuliffe says he is seeking a meeting with the speaker in the near future.

Another big challenge for McAuliffe will come in the form of the next biennial budget, which Governor McDonnell is expected to present to the House and Senate money committees next month. McAuliffe will have to work with lawmakers to pass a budget next year, but the lines of communication are open between the governor and governor-elect. McDonnell called to congratulate his successor after his win Tuesday night, and the pair are scheduled for a private lunch Thursday afternoon in Richmond. McAuliffe says he will continue to follow through on plans to appoint bipartisan leaders to his cabinet. And well before he takes office, he says his first two executive orders will tackle two contentious subjects: banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in state workplaces and a $100 gift cap for the governor and his family.
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