Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

January 11, 2014

Rain on the just, the unjust and everyone on Richmond inauguration day

— — Good news and bad news — aside from the political viewpoints — are quick to align themselves with the Richmond weather forecast as Terry McAuliffe prepares to take the oath today as Virginia’s 72nd governor. A 90 percent chance of rain persists in the capitol city with predictions of perhaps as much as an inch of rain falling between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

By then, the soggy city should have already witnessed a somewhat surprising Democratic rise to the highest levels of power in the Old Dominion. McAuliffe, Ralph S. Northam as lieutenant governor and incoming Attorney General Mark R. Herring will have taken their places in the state government as outgoing leader Bob McDonnell takes his leave after a mixed review for his administration. McDonnell apologized to General Assembly members earlier this week regarding an investigation involving personal funds. He did point to what he termed several high points during his tenure as Republican governor.

Virginia certainly seems to be in the process of a political turnaround, as does West Virginia — in the opposite direction. The heavy bloc of northern voters have prompted a return to Democratic leadership, including support for President Barack Obama, while in the Mountain State, nearly a century of party-line voting has been replaced as the coal industry fights against environmental and energy policies touted by the current administration.

After decades of consistency Virginia has returned to the Democratic ranks while West Virginia can be counted in the Republican column in national elections. Speaking of national elections, there are persistent rumors here in Richmond that former President Bill Clinton, a McAuliffe supporter, will be among the guests on Capitol Square at noon when the inauguration commences.

There will be limited seating for the ceremony slated to be held on the west steps of the historic capitol, scene of the oldest continuous representative Democracy in the world. Thomas Jefferson’s design will stand boldly above the banks of the James River as citizens from across Virginia — and beyond — will gather to watch the transfer of power.

Not only will the governorship change hands but also possession of the mansion where the state’s first family will reside. As the McDonnells exit, the McAuliffes will enter into the 200 year old home that has the distinction of being the oldest executive mansion in the nation. History never seems far away in the state, where an unparalleled eight presidents have been born. It was also in Richmond where one upstart nation made its home in an unsuccessful bid to split apart from the (previously) United States of America.

Some 100 feet from where McAuliffe will take the oath of office is the spot where another General Assembly conferred the leadership of the state militia to Robert E. Lee in 1861. Just down the street is the former home of the Confederate White House. Earlier today, there was a prayer breakfast at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, adjacent to capitol square. It was in that building that Lee often attended services and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was in the congregation when word came that U.S. Grant had broken the South’s lines at nearby Petersburg, forcing the final evacuation of Richmond by Confederate forces in April 1865.

So, perhaps no American city is more focused on change than Richmond. For centuries in this pivotal state, the social and political tides have ebbed and flowed around Henrico County. Through the decades of the powerful machine led by former governor and later U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., to the latest turn of the political pages taking place here in early 2014, Virginia has not always been right but the Commonwealth has ever been interesting and a barometer for much of what the entire nation can expect. With a prime spot on the middle of the eastern coast and a lucrative position near the national government as well as the huge maritime complex in Norfolk, the state wields immense influence.

Here in the Southwest, as hard-working and dedicated Sen. Phil Puckett, D-Russell, and Delegate Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, know perhaps all too well, however, many citizens worry about being left out of the progressive spotlight. While the ships come and go and big government rolls on, coal miners, teachers, farmers, and all far west citizens wonder just what to expect from a legislative body located further away from them than the capitols of five other states. We hope for the best and wish our local legislators success in their attempts to help all of us.

And the good news? It is expected to be about 65 degrees, almost warm enough for a little shampoo with that shower.

 Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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