New Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe reached out to Republicans Saturday in an inauguration speech marked with conciliatory overtones.
“The impediments to consensus are well known: ideology, personal political ambition, partisanship or score-settling,” McAuliffe, 56, said after he was sworn in as the commonwealth's 72nd chief executive. “No one who has served as an elected official has looked back and wished they had been more rigid, more ideological or more partisan.
"Like four years ago, the skeptics are predicting divided government driven to gridlock by partisanship,” he added. “Virginia, together, we will prove them wrong again.”
Republicans have a firm hold on the Virginia House of Delegates, while the outcome of two special elections will determine control of the Senate.
In addition, McAuliffe beat Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by only 2.5 percent in a bitter campaign in which Cuccinelli gained ground in the final weeks by tying the former Democratic National Committee chairman to Obamacare.
As longtime supporters former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looked on, the new governor urged progress through consensus — vowing that political gridlock would not harm his tenure.
McAuliffe praised outgoing Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — and he even quoted Thomas Jefferson, who designed the state Capitol where McAuliffe was sworn-in on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
"Common ground doesn't move towards us, we move towards it," he said.
Throughout his speech, McAuliffe sought to assure Republicans that he would work with them to lead a commonwealth that would expand economic opportunity while maintaining a reputation for strong fiscal management.
"Identifying the roadblocks is not a challenge," he said. "What is hard is having the humility to admit that each of us has allowed these impediments to influence our decisions.
"And even more challenging is having the foresight to put them aside for the greater good."
McAuliffe complimented McDonnell for reaching a bipartisan deal on a sweeping transportation package last year, but — in an obvious reference to the ethical inquiries that have plagued his predecessor — said that he would seek ethics reform.
McAuliffe said that he would ask the General Assembly to "enact the strongest possible new ethics rules to hold all Virginia elected officials to the highest of standards.
"We must also recognize that Virginians have placed great trust in us and expect transparency, and decision-making that avoids improper conflicts," he said.
McDonnell continues to face state and federal investigations into thousands of dollars in gifts and loans he and his family received from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of dietary supplement maker Star Scientific Inc.
In his first official act, McAuliffe signed an executive order placing a $100 limit on gifts to executive branch members and their families — including himself and wife Dorothy and their five children.
The order also created an Executive Branch Ethics Commission to ensure compliance.
After the speech, Hillary Clinton told reporters that she was "very moved" by McAuliffe's speech.
She called his election "a great personal achievement," adding that "he is certainly relishing the moment."
Two other Democrats also were sworn into office on Saturday: Ralph Northam as lieutenant governor and Mark Herring as attorney general — making Virginia's top five officials Democratic since 1969, Politico reports
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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