Every inauguration is a chance to begin anew. In Virginia this past week we inaugurated a new governor, Robert McDonnell (R), amidst the fanfare and high hopes that accompany each new governor’s ascension to the Commonwealth’s highest office in stature (though tiny in dimension, as anyone who has actually seen the governor’s working office will confirm).
This week we also mark the one-year point in the tenure of our country’s chief executive, President Barack Obama. As these editorial pages attest, there are wildly diverging views on how successful the President’s first year in office has been. One area, however, that virtually everyone agrees has been a disappointment and blame goes to both parties is in the utter lack of bi-partisanship in Washington.
Our new governor and our General Assembly have a chance to succeed where their counterparts in Washington have so far failed. Bi-partisanship will be necessary to successful governance, as McDonnell, a Republican, must work with the Democrat-controlled state Senate as well as the Republican-led House of Delegates.
Alexandria’s all-Democrat delegation, led by State Senator Patsy Ticer (30th), and including delegates David Englin (45th), Charniele Herring (46th) and Adam Ebbin (49th) will have to work to find common ground with the new governor if they are to be successful. Senator Ticer, in particular, given her Senate leadership role as chairman of the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee and membership on several other key committees (including Transportation), is well positioned to make a difference.
At first glance, given the poisonous partisanship of this political era, asking a left-of-center delegation to work effectively with a right-of-center governor seems impossible. Yet there are several reasons why they might be successful. Though McDonnell is a Republican and the Alexandria delegation all Democrats, no one is an extremist either in views or temperament. Though they will undoubtedly disagree on many policy points, it is easy to see our gracious Senator Ticer and the affable McDonnell striving to work together.
There is also encouraging, early evidence that our new governor and our delegation want to work together. McDonnell’s address to the General Assembly on Monday was stridently bi-partisan. The governor repeatedly emphasized that his top priority as governor will be job creation in Virginia. His address to the assembly highlighted a number of specific proposals to lure businesses to Virginia and to make it easier to open a business in the Commonwealth. “The business of creating jobs is not a partisan one,” McDonnell told the legislators, adding “I ask that you make decisions based not on which house or political party or branch of government wins…but whether or not Virginia wins.”
Alexandria’s Englin, though opposed to many of McDonnell’s ideas such as off-shore drilling, sounded a conciliatory tone in his response to McDonnell’s speech, praising the governor’s “reasonably inclusive and pragmatic tone in the transition and in his Inaugural remarks.” Englin said he would continue reaching out to McDonnell’s policy team in an effort to find bi-partisan consensus on his budget reform issues.
An additional reason to hope for bi-partisan cooperation is simply because voters, both here and nationwide, are making it clear that they’re fed up with the way our government has been headed in recent years. One message of the past 14 months, spanning the presidential election, City Council elections in Alexandria, off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey and the special election for the Senate in Massachusetts has been that the electorate wants cooperative, effective governance and that they’re willing to throw out officials of either party if that doesn’t happen.
Each new administration and legislative session begins with a desire for success. Here’s hoping that our new governor and delegation find ways to work together on a variety of issues and thus set an example for their counterparts across the river and around the country.