Will a new governor bring real change to Virginia?

Governor Terry McAuliffe campaigning in Floyd in 2013
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigning in Floyd before last year's election.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe campaigning in Floyd before last year’s election.

Virginia inaugurated a new governor over the weekend, a Democrat after four years of Republican leadership by the scandal-scarred Bob McDonnell.

Attorney General Ralph Northam campaigning in Floyd before election.
Attorney General Ralph Northam campaigning in Floyd before election.

Democrats now occupy the top three positions in Virginia:  Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General.  Four years of hysteria from now deposed Republican attorney general Ken Cuccinelli are over.

As a political agnostic and a newspaperman, I don’t really care which party occupies the governor’s mansion or controls the General Assembly in Richmond.  Either party provides lots of opportunity for skeptical scrutiny by those of us who do it for a living.

But the past four years gave us an example of the dangers of one-party rule in the Old Dominion and the disaster that comes from electing puppets of phony grassroots organizations like the tea party.

Both McDonnell and Cuccinelli used their office to fatten their own wallets and impose the wishes of a regressive right wing that is controlled by a narrow, self-serving political agenda.  They were aided by a General Assembly leadership who fell into lockstep with repressive one-party rule.

New governor Terry McAuliffe appears, at least on the surface, to be seeking the same bi-partisan, coalition-building practices that made former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner one of Virginia’s most popular governors.  He’s picked Republicans and Democrats for his team and time will tell if the move brings an era of cooperation into a political system ruled by partisanship and obstructionism.

Republicans argue that McDonnell’s troubles with personal gifts from now former Star Scientific CEO Jon Williams hurt their chances and cost Cuccinelli the governorship.  Perhaps.  But the race for lt. governor, where Virginia voters overwhelming rejected right-wing extremist E.W. Jackson in favor of Ralph Northam, was due more to a shift in the Old Dominion’s electorate and a general dissatisfaction with partisanship.

But the General Assembly is still controlled by those who passed some of the most disturbing laws in recent history and McAuliffe will have his hands full dealing with them.

Time will tell.  Let the fun begin.

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