RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — It was a change of power at the Virginia State Capitol Saturday. Thousands of people filed onto Capitol Square to witness Democrat Ralph Northam’s inauguration.
While the rain held off, it was a chilly and dreary day in Richmond. Many visitors opted to sip on free hot cider to keep warm.
The cups were labeled with the theme of the ceremony — “The Way Ahead.”
Northam’s team has defined it as “a vision for leading a Virginia with bipartisan, commonsense solutions that lifts up all of its people.”
Peggy Washington and Virginia McCorn traveled from Northern Virginia to see the big event.
“We’re excited,” said McCorn. “I think he’s going to do good for Virginia. I’m trusting him all the way.”
It was the first time they’ve seen a governor sworn in.
“We always campaign, but we never get to the inaugural,” said Washington.
While they were first timers, Ben Marchi from Culpeper was an old pro. He went to his first inauguration 24 years ago.
This time, he brought his 7-year-old son, Henry, along with him.
Marchi didn’t vote Northam but said it was important for him to be there.
“A lot of his views do align with mine and a lot don’t,” he said. “But that’s okay. That’s not why we’re here today. We’re here to celebrate the passing of the torch and free democracy. That’s why I brought my son out today, to witness all that.”
While he doesn’t completely see eye to eye with Northam politically, they do have something in common — they both went to VMI.
“Because VMI is such a special place where people have a very special sense of honor and integrity, even though I disagree with the man on a number of issues, I know that at the end of the day he’ll act with a level of integrity I think all Virginians will be proud of,” said Marchi.
Marchi and his son were among the 4,000 people packed into the grandstands on the Capitol’s South Portico to see Northam take his oath.
The new governor promised to see “The Way Ahead” for Virginia. He hit on the need for Medicaid expansion and stricter gun laws.
Those are two priorities that could prove to be tough. Republicans still hold a slim majority in the House of Delegate and Senate.
But Northam said he is committed to working together.
“Virginians didn’t send us here to be Democrats or Republicans – they sent us here to solve problems,” he said.
After the governor addressed the crowd, it was time for the inaugural parade. This one was the biggest in Virginia’s history.
And that was partly because of Northam’s alma mater. Nearly 1,500 cadets from VMI’s core of cadets participated in the parade. In all, 26 groups sent him off in celebration.
While he’s only on day one as governor, Northam is already looking to the future.
“If we work together today, tomorrow will be better for all of the Virginians who have placed their trust in us to fight for them every day,” he said. “This country is once again looking to Virginia to lead the way.”
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — both Democrats — were also sworn in at Saturday’s event.