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Live blog: The Inauguration of Robert F. McDonnell

Rosalind Helderman

Welcome, Virginians. Today we will be live blogging the fesitivities surrounding the Inauguration of the commonwealth's 71ist governor, Robert Francis McDonnell. At a recent news conference, McDonnell promised reporters the weather would be 75 and sunny for the event. It's not quite that warm, but it is a lovely mild winter day. Please stay with us for the next 90 minutes for all the latest from Richmond.

11:31 a.m.: We just ran into chairman of the Republican National Committee, as he strolled into the Capitol building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, for today's events. Of McDonnell's win, Michael Steele said: "I think it speaks to how principled candidates who are running grassroots campaigns can connect with people and lay out the argument for their policies and the differences between the directions they would like to lead the state and country and the direction Democrats would like to go in. I think people responded very favorably. We're very grateful for the victory in Virginia and New Jersey and we're looking forward to hopefully an even greater one in Massachusetts."

11:40 a.m. The bleechers have been filling quickly in Capitol Square, but there are hardly the throngs in Richmond for this event that attended, for instance, the historic inauguration of Gov. Doug Wilder or even some other recent Inaugurals.

11:42 a.m.: The first formal event of the ceremonies is underway. In the Capitol's Old Senate chamber, outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine is preparing to hand over the key to the governor mansion to incoming Gov. Bob McDonnell. We can see that Anne Holton, Kaine's wife, is wearing a cherry red suit for the day. Maureen McDonnell is attired in a white suit. The men are wearing the traditional grey morning suits of a Virginia inauguration.

11:46 a.m.: Kaine just told McDonnell that he received the key four years ago. He put it in his sock drawer and never used it again. (It's not like the governor's mansion is ever locked to him.) Anne Holton said to Maureen McDonnell, "The house is a treasure. Take care of it." "I know," she responded.


11:51 a.m.: The General Assembly will soon gavel into order. Virginia's Inauguration is a bit ususual around the country, in that it can only take place during a formal meeting of the General Assembly. For that reason, the event is formally overseen by Speaker of the House of Delegates Bill Howell and House clerk Bruce Jamerson. After the session is opened, members of the General Assembly will make their way from the legislative chambers, outdoors, to the south portico of the Capitol.

12:02 p.m.: Guests are being introduced onto the portico. Gov. Tim Kaine and family get a warm round of applause.

12:04 p.m.: Now, the Inaugural committee, is descending on the portico. This is a group of senior legislators who formally accompany the governor-elect. Attire for the men is standard--again with the grey morning suits. We understand the few women in the bunch struggle a bit with their wardrobe. They are requested to wear black suits. But, as any woman can attest, not all black suits are created equal.

12:06: Senate Majority Leader Democrat Dick Saslaw paused for a long moment as he made his way to his seat to chat with former Republican U.S. Senator George Allen. To be a fly on one of those two men's shoulders for that exchange...

12:08 p.m.: Incoming attorney general Ken Cuccinelli was just introduced. The verdict is: No gloves!

12:09 p.m.: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has arrived. He too, no gloves. And now the fife and drum corps picks up for Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell's arrival. He likewise appears to not be wearing gloves.

12:11 p.m.: A guest not featured in a place of honor on the portico: Rev. Pat Robertson. He is seated, however, in the bleachers.

12:13 p.m.: The opening prayer is being delivered by Father Thomas Scully, a Notre Dame professor and college classmate of McDonnell. "This is the day the Lord has made," he opens. "Let us rejoice and be glad."

12:15 p.m.: Talk about being put on the spot. The National Anthem is being sung by McDonnell's oldest daughter, Army veteran Jeanine McDonnell.

12:17 p.m.: It was hard to hear, but I think we just heard McDonnell shout, "That's my girl!" to his daughter, as she concluded.

12:19 p.m.: "God Bless America", comes to us from Virginia Beach singer and voice coach Millie Harris. She holds the last note a looong time.

12:20 p.m.: The benediction is read by Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Congregation Beth Cheverim in Virginia Beach. He offers a rather lengthy portion of his address in Hebrew. "Shalom and Mazel Tov," he concludes.

12:22 p.m.: Now for the meat. The oaths. Ken Cuccinelli will be sworn in first. Judge Margaret W. Deglau of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court does the honors. Cuccinelli swears, as is traditional, to defend the constitutions of the United States and Virginia. It will be interesting to watch how Cuccinelli interprets those words over the next four years.

12:25 p.m.: This must be old hat for the second oath-taker, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who did the same deed in a rainy and cold Williamsburg four years ago. When asked by Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald W. Lemons if he was prepared to take the oath, Bolling drew chuckles with the answer, "I am more than ready."

12:26 p.m.: It's time for the big event. McDonnell is getting sworn in by Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Milano Keenan. She is the first woman to swear-in a Virginia governor. Plus, there's some bipartisanship involved here. She's been nominated to the federal bench by President Obama.

12:28 p.m.: That's it folks. Goodbye former Gov. Kaine. Hello Gov. Bob McDonnell!

12:29 p.m.: The street corridors of the capital city are being rocked by the booms of howitzers being fired by the Virginia National Guard in an official salute to our new governor. The roar of jets in formation flying overhead is in the air.

12:30 p.m.: A member of the National Guard will deliver a spent casing from their salute to McDonnell as a souvenir. In 2006, when the inaugural was held in Williamsburg, the howitzer's were replaced by reenactment cannon. Since they don't expend shells, the reenactors hauled one out to the woods a week early, shot off a real canon ball, and gave that to Kaine as a keepsake instead.

12:32 p.m.: Taking the podium for his speech, McDonnell leaned over to Howell. "There are a lot of people here." he said. "It's like one of your fundraisers!" As he begins to speak, he noted he had kept his first campaign promise: sunny and warm for his inauguration.

12:34 p.m.: McDonnell opens his address with a nod to history. He talks of all the historic events that have occured at the state Capitol, including the swearing-in as governor of the grandson of slaves, Doug Wilder, as the nation's first black governor. Wilder, in attendence, stands and waves. Wilder's decision not to endorse McDonnell's opponent Democrat Creigh Deeds was a key campaign moment.

12:36 p.m.: The crowd gives a lengthy standing ovation to McDonnell's father and father-in-law, both veterans of World War II.

12:38: The Virginians who come in for praise from McDonnell: The explorers who came to the New World, the revolutionaries who helped found the nation, the civil rights pioneers who fought for equal rights.

12:39 p.m.: "The creation of new job opportunies is the obligation of our time." Ouch, he dings Kaine ever so slightly, mentioning the accolades for management that the state has received that Kaine has extolled over and over again. "Those rankings speak well of our past. They do not determine our future," he says.

12:42 p.m.: This speech is not all talk of history. McDonnell is laying out a core vision for a new Republicanism, one that embraces the modern values of diversity and does not spurn the role of government entirely. But, he says: "The circumstances of our time demand that we reconsider and restore the proper and efficient role of government." "And as we enact these reforms we must remember this: that government cannot guarantee individual outcomes, but equality of opportunity must be guaranteed for all."

12:45 p.m.: McDonnell has said already his top priority will be job creation. And here is more substance. He will work with President Obama on charter schools and merit pay. On colleges, he says, "I intend to pursue a recommendation to confer 100,000 new college degrees over the next 15 years." Pursue a recommendation, huh? Is that the same as actually awarding the degrees? Is he backing off that promise just a hair?

12:47 p.m.: He calls for pursuing "environmentally-safe" offshore drilling. And he doesn't mention the 10th amendment, but he does call for curbing the power of the federal government. "No federal mandate nor program crafted by either political party should undermine the central principle of federalism, enshrined in the birth certificate of America by those who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor," he says.

12:51 p.m.: George Washington gets the final quote from McDonnell, not surprising for a guy who cites Washington as his favorite founder. (In fact, he's often mentioned this quote: "The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected to remain on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.")

12:54 p.m. The speech is over. Nice and brief. Wow has it gotten nice and sunny out there. Several Indian chiefs now are coming forward to recognize McDonnell as the commonwealth's 71st governor. You gotta love this part of Virginia events. Always a lot of history in it. The chiefs sing, drum and dance in McDonnell's honor.

1:01 p.m.: We are closing with the benediction by the Bishop Courtney McBath of Calvary Revival Church of Norfolk. He asks that McDonnell be a strong governor like those of old, and names three examples, all Democrats--Jefferson, Wilder and Kaine. "We pray there are better days ahead for our Commonwealth," he says.

1:04 p.m.: The honor of making the motion that the inaugural address be printed and distributed to members of the assembly is given to newly elected Republican Sen. Jeff McWaters. And the honor of moving to adjourn the session is given to newly elected Democratic Sen. David Marsden. "Sine Die," Marsden, says in the traditionally mispronounced Latin of the General Assembly session. "Si-ne Di-e," Howell says, correcting with proper Latin. "Si-ne Di-e."

1:06: With that, the ceremony concludes. Thank you for joining us on this sunny Saturday. Please check the website all day for continuing covering of this historic day.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 16, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Next: McDonnell signs first two executive orders: jobs, government reform


Father Thomas Scully had me going there for a while, praying for Gov. McDonnell's future and all, right up to the part about being "in the name of Jesus Christ".

Hey, Father Scully, is Bob McDonnell only governor of Christian Virginian's? If so, what about the rest of us?

Posted by: OutragedToo | January 17, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

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