Setting the Tone for Their Tenures as Governors

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his inaugural address at the State Capitol in Madison on Monday.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers delivers his inaugural address at the State Capitol in Madison on Monday. Wisconsin Governor's Office via Facebook

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A sampling of 5 inauguration speeches from the newly sworn-in governors of California, Minnesota, Nevada, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

As the federal government remained partially shut down on Monday, the states of California, Minnesota, Nevada, Wisconsin and Wyoming are open for business and officially inaugurated their new governors.

Inauguration Day kicks off a busy time in state capitals. Here’s a sampling of what the five new governors said during their respective addresses on Monday.

Making an Appeal to Put Polarizing Politics Aside in Wisconsin

In Madison, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers comes into office facing a Republican-controlled legislature that passed bills to limit his executive powers after the November election. Evers tried to strike a bipartisan tone during his inaugural address, noting that the state can’t succeed unless government leaders put “people first,” not politics, The Capital Times reported.

"We’ve gotten away from who we are and the values that make Wisconsin great—not Republican or Democratic values, but our Wisconsin values of kindness and respect, empathy and compassion, and integrity and civility," the new governor said, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "This is bigger than me; this is about the people of Wisconsin. It’s about setting aside political interests and personal ambitions to work together on solving problems."

In his first executive order, Evers created an anti-discrimination policy for state agencies on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity along with another affirming the importance of state government workers. “Each person in Wisconsin deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This fosters sound government, society, and business, and it’s just the right thing to do,” Evers wrote on Facebook. The second order affirmed the importance of state government workers in Wisconsin.

In Nevada, ‘No One Should Have to Ration Off Their Medicine’

In Carson City, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, became the first Democrat to hold the governorship in about two decades.

Sisolak, according to a transcript from KTVN, noted how the state has recently reached important political milestones, including having the nation’s first female-majority legislature and elected its first African-American constitutional officer (Attorney General Aaron Ford) and first Latina lieutenant governor (Kate Marshall).

Sisolak also discussed how reining in health care costs in the state is among his top priorities, noting how the financial burden of health care is “one of the most personal issues a family deals with.”

According Sisolak’s remarks:

Last year, I met an elderly couple at a retirement home. They were both on blood pressure medication but couldn’t afford two copays. So they split their pills in half every day, to make sure each of them got something.

It’s a loving gesture. But it’s also a travesty. No one should have to ration off their medicine or skip doctor visits. Or be forced into bankruptcy because of an unexpected illness. But today, too many people are doing just that.

I’m committed to cracking down on the rising cost of prescription drugs...blocking any effort to roll back protections for pre-existing conditions…protecting access to women’s health care...and defending a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.

Health care isn’t political. It’s personal.  We have to do better. And I know that we can.

The new governor discussed the importance of improving public education and creating economic opportunities that keep young people from leaving the state and drawing new families to the state. “We have so much to offer out-of-state businesses. But we can’t expect talented workers to stay here if we can’t guarantee their kids a quality education.”

‘California Has Always Helped Write America’s Future’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom delivers remarks after being sworn into office on Monday. (California Governor's Office via Facebook)

In Sacramento, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom was sworn into office with his two-year-old son Dutch providing some comedic relief during his father’s speech when he wandered on stage.

CALMatters observed on Monday:

At first glance, it appeared to be a working parent’s worst nightmare: Your kid needs you right at a moment of peak professional responsibility. At second glance, cynics might have wondered, ever so gently, whether it was political stagecraft that maybe went sideways when a small child allowed to wander adorably into the frame refused to stop wandering. Either way, the scene, which stole the show, quickly became a perfect symbol of Newsom’s ascent as governor—at once emblematic of the generational changing of the guard in California’s leadership, of Newsom’s policy priorities and of his station in life at this particular moment.

Although Newsom, who comes into office after his party decimated Republicans in state and congressional elections in November, did not mention President Trump by name in his inaugural address, the new governor did acknowledge that “there is an administration in Washington hostile to California’s values and interests.”

Newsom added, according to his prepared remarks:

California has always helped write America’s future. And we know the decisions we make, would be important at any time. But what we do today is even more consequential, because of what’s happening in our country. People’s lives, freedom, security, the water we drink, the air we breathe—they all hang in the balance. The country is watching us. The world is waiting on us. And the future depends on us. And we will seize the moment.

On his first day in office, Newsom unveiled his administration’s new health care plan that would, according to The Sacramento Bee, “prop up the Affordable Care Act, expand health care for undocumented immigrants and give the state new powers to negotiate drug prices” through what his office describes as a first-in-the-nation executive order to that “will allow all Californians—including private employers—to sit together at the bargaining table across from big drug companies when negotiating prescription drug prices.”  

‘One Minnesota’

In St. Paul, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who becomes the state’s first Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor to follow a two-term DFL governor and assumes office as his party swept all statewide elections in November, pledged unity and “One Minnesota.” It’s something “sewn into the fabric of our communities. It is driven by the collective good, fueled by our innovation.

Walz noted the uncertainty and political turmoil in the nation’s capital. “I will not normalize behavior that seeks to deepen or exploit these divides. I will not normalize policies that are not normal, ones that undermine our decency and respect. If Washington won’t lead, Minnesota will.”

Among the major policy priorities Walz discussed was education, according to Minnesota Public Radio:

"Minnesotans, let's recognize some simple truths: Education is the great equalizer of society. Education unleashes untapped potential. Education conjures the magic of promising beginnings and the grace of second chances," Walz said, surrounded by his former students and teachers he worked with over the years. "Putting a young child on a yellow bus to pre-kindergarten in St. Cloud can prevent him from riding a prison bus to Stillwater."

Aspirations and ‘Complicated Times’ in Wyoming

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon with his wife Jenny. (via Gov. Mark Gordon / Instagram)

Gov. Mark Gordon, a Republican, was sworn into office in the Cheyenne Civic Center auditorium on a podium built by his son, and gave a preview of his State of the State address that’s scheduled for Wednesday.

"I believe from the bottom of my heart that Wyoming can reach new heights and be a beacon for others. We can lead the way for a bright future if we focus on the world we want our grandchildren to inherit, even as we address the issues we face today,” Gordon said, according to Wyoming Public Media.

The Casper Star Tribune noted that Gordon “spoke in highly optimistic tones, despite referring more than once to the current ‘complicated times.’”

The general themes of his intentions, however, were clear: a desire to recognize the state’s wants versus its needs, a leaner—but not necessarily cheaper—government and, in what might be the most notable concern for his administration, a real solution to sustainably funding the state’s education system.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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