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Gov. McDonnell explains legacy as chapter closes

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Posted at 12:36 AM, Dec 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-12 00:36:54-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--His four years are nearly over, and in one month Governor Bob McDonnell leaves office for Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become the state's 72nd chief executive.

The governor and his family are preparing for life away from Capitol Square, saying that there’s no question that “it'll be hard.”

“I've thought about it a lot,” McDonnell says. “It'll be hard to step back into the next phase of life, but, life has phases."

The reality of that next phase is already building up around him as crews set the stage for governor-elect McAuliffe’s inauguration, set to take place January 11.

“I'm sure I’m gonna want to call Terry just about every week saying, ‘No man, don't do that, do this.’"

That's because there is still a lot more he wants to accomplish. He says his list already includes budget surpluses, transportation reform, bringing several movie production companies to the Commonwealth and toughening accountability in state schools--which he calls his biggest accomplishment.

“I think it's the civil rights issue of our time; a great school with great teachers, regardless of zipcode,” he says. “That's the goal--time for excuses is over."

The governor's political star was rising on the national stage as well, with speculation he'd be Mitt Romney’s running mate during the 2012 election.

That didn't happen and shortly afterward he and his wife became the focus of a federal investigation, after claims were made that in exchange for favors they accepted lavish gifts from Star-Scientific CEO Jonnie R. Williams.

McDonnell says he is ready for closure, and that “there are things you can control and things you can't control.”

That’s where his faith—“I have great faith in God”—comes in, along with “faith in our justice system.”

“I believe with all my heart and soul that I have not done anything wrong or violated any laws, but, there are some judgments I made that I’d do differently today.”

That investigation remains open today, and the governor isn't expecting to be indicted. Instead, McDonnell is focusing on his next chapter.

“I'm just at a point in my life where a short break I think will be good for me."

The governor won't say what will follow that short break, but, if history's any indication, he'll be campaigning again.

In recent memory, all of Virginia’s past governors sought another political office after leaving the governor's mansion. Mark Warner's U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in 2014.

“I'm concerned about the future of the country,” McDonnell says. “I think the federal government can learn a lot from Virginia--who balance budgets and get things accomplished.”