Virginia’s senators look ahead to Youngkin administration

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 3:54 PM EST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Virginia is ready to welcome its new governor to office Saturday as the blue state will flip red with the swearing-in of Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

The first-time politician has promised to embark on what he calls a ‘big day-one game plan.’

“This is a moment for us to come together. This is a moment for us to recognize we have more that unites us than divides us. And, the best days for the commonwealth of Virginia are ahead of us,” Youngkin said.

Youngkin defeated Democratic hopeful Terry McAuliffe in a 2021 election that saw a spike in voter turnout. Meantime, the state legislature in Virginia remains controlled by Democrats.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) said the inauguration of a new governor brings back fond memories for both of them of their own inauguration days. Kaine was sworn in as Virginia’s governor in 2006. Warner was inaugurated in 2002.

“It’s always an emotional time, because it reminds me of my own inauguration, which is 16 years ago now,” said Kaine.

Warner noted he understands the challenges Youngkin may face ahead as he tries to work with a Democratic state legislature to achieve his goals.

Warner said he faced a highly Republican state legislature when he served in the role of governor.

“So finding that way to make a relationship with that legislature is terribly important,” Warner said.

He added Youngkin may also face a challenge in balancing that political divide with what his supporters want, especially those who support Donald Trump.

“Mr. Youngkin is going to have a challenge that he’s got the Trump wing of the Republican Party. So, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and call Mr. Youngkin a mainstream Republican. He’s going to have people nipping at him from the right and he’s got a Democratic Party that frankly is much more progressive than the Democratic Party that I had,” said Warner.

When asked specifically to comment on critics who called Youngkin’s election a referendum on President Biden and a reaction to Democrats delay in passing the federal infrastructure bill before the Virginia election, Warner said, “I was pulling my hair out throughout the whole fall because we had passed a broad bipartisan once in a generation infrastructure bill.”

He added, “If we had passed that [infrastructure] bill in August or early September even, I think President Biden’s ratings would have been higher. I think it would have given our democratic candidate more to talk about.”

The federal infrastructure bill passed in November.

Warner said he has had a couple of ‘good’ conversations with Youngkin and is looking forward to the time when the pair can have a longer sit-down to discuss Virginia politics.

Kaine, meantime, said he and his wife are looking forward to coming to the inauguration.

“This 25% increase in voter turnout [in Virginia] led to the election of a Republican governor,” said Kaine who added he believes Virginia’s election proves expanded voting rights work for both parties. That point by Kaine is currently the subject of a contentious debate on the U.S. Senate floor as lawmakers tackle a bill on voting rights that some critics believe should focus more on election security.

The last time Virginia had a Republican governor was 2010 to 2014, when Gov. Robert McDonnell (R-Va.) won the seat.

The inauguration ceremony takes place at 12:05 p.m. Saturday on the Capitol steps. An inaugural parade will also begin at 1:20 p.m.

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