The key to the Executive Mansion wasn’t quite what Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin expected.
Instead of a brass key to a door lock, Gov. Ralph Northam handed the incoming governor a card – punctured by tooth marks from his puppy Pearl.
“Did the dog eat it?” Youngkin asked incredulously after he and his wife, Suzanne, joined Northam and First Lady Pam Northam in the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol for the traditional passing of the key from one governor to the next.
Northam responded, “He tried to eat it,” and then explained that it would give Youngkin access to the back and side doors of the mansion, and the elevator.
“I can promise you it still works,” Northam told Youngkin minutes before the governor-elect took the oath of office steps away on the South Portico.
The couples greeted one another warmly, exemplifying the smooth transition from a Democratic governor to a Republican.
“The entire commonwealth sees the love in your heart,” Youngkin told his predecessor.
Northam told his successor, “We are so excited for you and your family. Four years will really go by fast.”
In an interview earlier, the outgoing governor said he already has 10 patients scheduled on Monday at his medical practice in Norfolk.
Northam said the executive protection unit will drive the couple to their home in Norfolk once last time, and then they will start driving themselves again in his 2000 Toyota Sequoia and shopping for groceries themselves.
After the key exchange, conducted under portraits of Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas, Northam and Youngkin walked across the Capitol hallway to the Jefferson Room, where they met with seven former governors – Democrats Chuck Robb, Doug Wilder, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Republicans George Allen, Jim Gilmore and Bob McDonnell.
“Well, this is a heck of a group,” Youngkin exclaimed as he walked into the room.
McDonnell replied, “Welcome to the group!”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat whom Youngkin defeated in November, did not attend but sent his regrets.
McAuliffe, who preceded Northam as governor, said on Twitter that he and his wife Dorothy had hoped to attend “but are quarantining due to a close COVID contact in the interest of health and safety.”
“We wish Glenn Youngkin and the new administration well today as they start their term,” the 72nd governor tweeted.
Two other former governors were sadly missed at the quadrennial reunion. Gov. Linwood Holton, elected in 1969 as the first Republican governor since Reconstruction, and Gov. Gerald Baliles, who served between Robb and Wilder, had died since they gathered in the same room four years earlier for Northam’s inauguration.
However, Holton’s daughter, Anne, was there as the wife of Kaine. After the former governors posed for a photographs with Youngkin and Northam, she and other wives joined them for photos.
“Being here today is what one Virginia is all about,” Youngkin said.