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Youngkin Meets Northam As Transition Begins

Governor Ralph Northam gives Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin a challenge coin after their first meeting in those capacities.
Jahd Khalil
Governor Ralph Northam gives Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin a challenge coin after their first meeting in those capacities.

With voting in Virginia’s gubernatorial election over, a Republican is heading back to Virginia's Governor's Mansion. Governor Ralph Northam met Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin there for lunch in the first step of what appears to be a collaborative transition.

Northam and First Lady Pam Northam gave the Governor-elect and incoming First Lady Suzanne Youngkin a tour of the executive mansion. After a late lunch, he introduced the Governor-elect.

The two thanked staff at the capitol, including the Executive Protective Unit which guards the governor, and indicated the transition would be smooth. Politics wasn’t discussed but Youngkin referenced his status as a newcomer.

“What’s most important in a moment like this is to actually have someone you can call and ask questions and so I just appreciated that entire sentiment today,” Youngkin said.

Advice from an experienced hand like Northam’s will be valuable. Youngkin has not been in government before. Senator Mark Warner was also new to government office when he became governor in 2002. Bill Leighty, his chief of staff, has since wrote about how first-time Governor’s can begin their terms.

“I think most new governors, one of the first things that they are startled with is just how few appointments they actually make,” he said. “You start with an understanding that you actually don’t control everything..that will be different for a businessman.”

Youngkin was previously a private equity executive before retiring to enter politics. Northam was previously the Lieutenant Governor before winning his current office in 2017.

“I just want to thank you for the incredibly cooperative way that you expressed you're going to help us,” Youngkin told Northam before turning to the press. “We've got a lot of work to do. Day one is going to come fast and on day one, we need to go to work.”

Much of Youngkin’s “day one” agenda, as listed online will need to go through the General Assembly.

“If you're a businessman and you make a deal with somebody to do something and they don't uphold their portion of the deal, then you just don't ever do business with them again,” said Leighty. “Well, a governor like Youngkin is going to have a thing called the Virginia General Assembly and he's going to have to deal with them whether they keep their word or not.”

Although the races haven’t been certified or called by the Associated Press, long the gold standard for election predictions, signs point to the House of Delegates being controlled by the Republicans. Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in the Senate, but Winsome Sears is likely to be the Lieutenant Governor and would break any ties there.

Youngkin’s inauguration day is January 15th.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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