US: Josh Shapiro takes oath of office to become Pennsylvania governor

He is the first governor of the state since 1966 to be elected to succeed a member of his own party



Published: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 10:07 PM

Democrat Josh Shapiro has become the 48th governor of Pennsylvania at Tuesday's inaugural ceremony at the state Capitol, taking the oath of office on a cold winter day in the nation's fifth-most populous state on the heels of his blowout win in November's election.

Shapiro, 49, comes into office with more experience in state government than any of his recent predecessors, including seven years as a state lawmaker and six as the state's elected attorney general.

He took the oath on a stage erected behind the state's ornate Capitol in Harrisburg, with lawmakers, members of Congress and others looking on.

The Capitol filled up in the hours before the inaugural ceremony, with Shapiro's friends and supporters, political elite and many who will work in the new administration there to mingle, get credentials and pack into the Senate chamber to witness the swearing-in of Democrat Austin Davis to become Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor.

“While I’m blessed with this awesome opportunity and responsibility, it was paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of those who came before me,” Davis, 33, said in brief remarks from the Senate rostrum after taking the oath.

On stage were just over a dozen people Shapiro invited who aides say symbolize his accomplishments as attorney general and his bipartisan policy aims as governor.

In his speech, Shapiro won't spell out specific policy aims, aides say, but he will emphasize themes he developed before and after the election: that voters are embracing democracy, rejecting extremism and seeking progress on important quality-of-life issues.

He's taking the reins of a sprawling state government — it employs roughly 80,000 employees and handles more than $100 billion a year in state and federal money — that has billions in reserve and a stronger-than-usual economy for the slow-growing state.

But he also is moving across the street from the attorney general's office to the executive suite in the Capitol at a time when the House of Representatives is paralysed by a partisan fight for control and Republican lawmakers are aiming to take away some executive branch leeway to enact regulations.

Shapiro succeeds outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who was term-limited, and will be the first governor of Pennsylvania since 1966 to be elected to succeed a member of his own party.

Shapiro himself has preached bipartisanship, emphasizing his support from independents and Republicans in the election when he rolled up a powerhouse 15 percentage-point victory over the far-right Republican nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Shapiro benefited from a Democratic electorate inflamed by the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.

In Shapiro, they saw someone who would protect abortion rights with his veto pen and ensure the 2024 presidential election — when Pennsylvania again is expected to be a premier battleground — will be free and fair, and not overturned if the Republican loses.

Still, now that Shapiro is governor, every new law must have a GOP stamp of approval, considering the six-seat Republican majority in the state Senate.

To that end, Shapiro has tried to avoid radioactive political issues, staked out the middle on various issues and hired several Republicans for his Cabinet.

Shapiro will sign ethics orders for his administration later this week, aides say, and will deliver his first speech to a joint session of the Legislature when he presents his first budget plan March 7.

By the time Shapiro takes the oath of office just after noon on Tuesday, he will have resigned as attorney general. In control will be his top deputy of six years, Michelle Henry, a career prosecutor who Shapiro plans to nominate to fill the last two years of his term.

Chief Justice Debra Todd administered his oath while Shapiro, a Jew, placed his hand on a stack of three copies of the Hebrew Bible.

The inauguration was culminating in a sold-out, $50-per-ticket bash at Rock Lititz Studios in Lititz featuring performances by rapper Wiz Khalifa, singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson and indie rock band Mt. Joy.

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