Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced his transition steering committee and advisors on Wednesday. The group includes Republican legislators, Republican Party of Virginia officials, and the three previous Republican governors of Virginia. Former Democratic Governor Doug Wilder is also on the list; he aimed several attacks at opponent former Governor Terry McAuliffe during the campaign without ever endorsing Youngkin. The list also includes Sentara Chief of Staff Aubrey Layne, who was a cabinet official to both Governor Ralph Northam and McAuliffe.
“In order to change the trajectory of our great Commonwealth, we can’t operate on government time,” Youngkin said in a press release. “We’re going to do things differently. That’s why this incredible transition team represents various backgrounds—business owners, law enforcement officers, veterans, healthcare providers, and most importantly, parents — who will bring an array of experience and fresh perspectives that will pave the way for a transformation where Virginia soars and never settles.”
Youngkin campaign COO Jeff Goettman is the transition director; he worked at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and as COO of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.
The steering committee will be co-chaired by Kay James, who recently helmed conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, and who worked for both President George W. Bush and Governor George Allen.
Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) will also co-chair the committee. Newman is vice president at Delta Star, Inc., a power transformer and substation provider. While he was serving on Virginia’s Redistricting Commission, he indicated that he may not run for reelection in 2023.
The Republican Standard Senior Editor Shaun Kenney told The Virginia Star, “As governor, you get two choices. Either you are going to change things rapidly or you are going to set yourself to the task of governing. The broad inclusion of Republican business leaders alongside Democratic stalwarts should signal to voters a preference for stability over change.”
Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said he wasn’t familiar with most of the people on the list. Surovell is a key leader in the Democratic caucus in the Senate, the only place where Democrats will have control of Virginia’s government after the inauguration. He said it’s too soon to know what message Youngkin is sending to Senate Democrats.
Democratic operative Paul Goldman said that transition committees’ work ends after the new administration’s cabinet officials are named, so the committee may not be representative of the eventual direction of the administration.
“They do a lot of good early work, but they don’t change policies in the end, so you’ve got to get the people in place,” Goldman said.
“I think what he’s trying to say is, ‘Look you know, I’m going to include a lot of people, I’m not an ideologue, I’m a practical guy, think I can work across the line.’ Given the split in the General Assembly, you’re going to have to,” Goldman added.
“He’s telling people, look, I’m not some reflexive Trump guy,” Goldman said.
He said including former Governor James Gilmore, III and former Governor George Allen gave Youngkin cover to include Wilder and former Governor Bob McDonnell. After leaving office, McDonnell was convicted in a conspiracy case, but the charges were vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Ballotpedia.
“Number two, I think he’s trying to rehabilitate [McDonnell.] I believe they’re friendly, and I believe he feels, as I do, that Bob McDonnell is a decent guy who made a terrible mistake,” the Democratic operative said.
Goldman said, “I think they like each other probably, I’m guessing. McDonnell was considered a fairly okay governor, not great, but okay, and you know, Republicans need a voice.”
“Talk is cheap, play the game,” The Virginia Star’s Publisher John Fredericks said.
During the election, Fredericks helped campaign to keep Trump’s base on Youngkin’s team while Youngkin wooed moderates.
“Glenn Youngkin made a plethora of very bold policy promises on day one,” Fredericks said. “The Trump voters that turned out in massive numbers that got him elected expect that he will follow through on his promises as pledged. The makeup of the transition team has no bearing on the execution and delivery of the promises he made. We’re interested in one thing: promises made, promises kept.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.
John Fredericks is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Virginia Star.
He is also a Trump 2020 delegate and the chairman of the Trump Virginia Delegation.