McAuliffe vows 'consensus-driven progress' in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) vowed Saturday to seek “consensus-driven progress” as its new leader.

Speaking to an inaugural crowd decked out in ponchos to guard against a cold rain, McAuliffe emphasized the need to grow and diversify Virginia’s economy, while looking to push the Southern state away from more socially conservative positions.

“My top priority will be to lay the groundwork for a diverse and growing economy in every single region of the Commonwealth,” he told the Richmond audience.

Virginia, particularly the northern region, has long been economically strong, but heavily reliant on a flow of work from the nearby federal government. Warning of “inevitable federal spending cuts,” McAuliffe called on Virginia to diversify during his four-year term.

A key piece of that, he argued, was to adopt more inclusive social policies. Among the priorities he identified was passing a law to ensure someone cannot be fired due to their sexuality, and to ensure that “every woman has the right to make her own personal health care choices.”

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“An open and welcoming state is critical for a 21st century economy,” he said.

Despite that social push, McAuliffe sought to strike a tone of cooperation, saying that no elected official leaves office and wishes they had been more partisan.

“The skeptics are predicting divided government driven to gridlock,” he said. “We will prove them wrong."

Other priorities McAuliffe identified in his inaugural address included making it easier for veterans to find employment and improving Virginia’s education system.

After being sworn in, McAuliffe took the reins for his first-ever elected position, after having built a political career as a behind-the-scenes operative and fundraiser. He co-chaired President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign and served as the head of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. The president, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were in attendance Saturday.

Dogged by ethical questions during the campaign, McAuliffe vowed to earn the trust of Virginians. He announced that just hours after becoming governor, he planned to sign an executive order imposing a “strict gift limit” on himself and his administration. He also called on the Virginia legislature to enact the “strongest possible” ethics rules on all public officials in the Commonwealth.

He also gave a nod to the outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell, saying his team provided the “smoothest transition imaginable,” and accomplished much to keep Virginia strong during his tenure.