Republican Glenn Youngkin was sworn on Saturday as the next governor of Virginia, delivering an optimistic message about empowering parents, overcoming COVID-19 and providing economic relief to families and businesses hard-hit by the pandemic and inflation.
"We celebrate the sound of freedom!" Youngkin said to thunderous applause and a fighter jet flyover shortly after he took the oath of office.
Speaking outside the Capitol in Richmond, the state's 74th governor told Virginians that better days are ahead.
"The spirit of Virginia is alive and well. And together we will strengthen it," Youngkin said. "Together we’ll renew the promise of Virginia, so it will be the best place to live, work and raise a family."
Youngkin, a former private equity executive and political novice, beat Democrat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in November to flip the swing state red in the highly-watched race. The last time a GOP governor was sworn into office in Virginia was Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2010.
In an olive branch to Democrats, Youngkin said Saturday: "No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate, your voice, your governor."
Youngkin, who mobilized voters on issues like race and education, said that children must be in school "five days a week" and not subjected to political teachings, alluding to his plan to ban critical race theory education.
"We will remove politics from the classroom and re-focus on essential math, science and reading," Youngkin said. "And we will teach all of our history the good and the bad."
He said "parents should have a say in what is taught in school."
"To parents I say we respect you," Youngkin said. "And we will empower you in the education of your children."
Youngkin said he wants to raise teacher pay, fully-fund law enforcement and protect qualified immunity for officers.
On coronavirus, Youngkin paid respect to those who have died and to the first responders and healthcare workers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic. He said he trusted modern medicine and "individual freedom" to guide Virginia out of the COVID-19 crisis.
"Despite the continuing challenges posed by COVID-19, I see a path forward," Youngkin said. "Not to some pessimistic new normal, but to a new and better day."
On the economy, Youngkin said he wants to suspend for a year the recent tax increase on gasoline, and eliminate the grocery tax altogether to address the higher cost of living. He said he'd reduce regulations, create 400,000 jobs and "get all Virginians back to work."
Youngkin talked of the record-high turnout in November and said Virginians were on "a mission to restore trust in government and to restore power to the people."
The inauguration is "not about me," he said, but a celebration of that movement.
"We stand here today as the messengers of that movement," Youngkin said. "Entrusted to protect liberty, create opportunity and build unity for the hard work ahead."
Youngkin, a first-time candidate who hails from the business wing of the GOP, ran a disciplined campaign, focusing on taxes, crime and holding public schools accountable to parents, while McAuliffe spent much of his firepower linking Youngkin to former President Donald Trump.
Youngkin had the support of Trump and also mobilized voters in the suburbs by running on issues like banning critical race theory teaching in schools. Liberals have fretted that Youngkin's win spells trouble for Democrats nationwide in this year's midterm elections with President Biden's dismal approval ratings.
On Friday night, he kicked off the inauguration weekend with a celebration at the Omni Richmond Hotel.
"I hope you can feel the spirit of Virginia because it’s alive and well!" Youngkin told supporters
Youngkin acknowledged the divisions and distrust in politics and signaled he wanted to embrace a different approach.
"Our politics have become too toxic," Youngkin said Saturday. "Soundbites have replaced solutions --- taking precedence over good faith problem-solving."
Youngkin was sworn in with other newly elected Republicans: Attorney General Jason Miyares and Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears in front of the state Capitol.