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Gov. Northam says goodbye: 'We are only here for a short time, especially governors'

Posted at 4:48 PM, Jan 13, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said he wishes Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, much success when he officially becomes the 74th Governor of Virginia this weekend.

"I want him, I want his administration to be successful. Because when they're successful, Virginia will be successful," Northam said.

In recent interviews, events, and speeches Northam has touted what's been accomplished during his four years in office — including the expansion of Medicaid, landing Amazon H-Q-2, and being named the best state for business multiple times.

"Virginia is the state where companies want to invest, put down roots and grow," he said.

Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who leaves office Saturday, waves as he prepares to deliver his final State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the Virginia General Assembly at the Capitol Wednesday Jan. 12, 2022, in Richmond, Va.

Northam's term was not without criticism.

His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw testing, supply, and vaccine rollout issues at times, was called into question.

Others included failures by the Parole Board to properly notify victims on decisions and of the Virginia Employment Commission's work during the pandemic -- with the public, government watchdogs, and federal judges piling on. For the latter, Northam said the VEC did as well as could be expected.

"It's a system that was overwhelmed and I commend them for doing the work they've done," he said.

Possibly the toughest time of his tenure was early in 2019 when a photo of people in blackface and a KKK robe was revealed on his medical school yearbook page. Northam first admitted, then denied he was in the photo. He recently told the Washington Post he's 99-percent sure who it was, but declined to name the individual.

The Governor faced calls from all sides to resign but instead went on a listening tour. He refocused his priorities leading to things like legalizing marijuana and repealing the death penalty.

"Not only is Virginia in a better place, but I'm a better person as well. And so again, I just thank Virginians for sticking with me," he said.

Ralph Northam, Stanley Mayfield
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, right, shakes the hand of artist, Stanley Mayfield, during an unveiling ceremony at the Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Richmond, Va. Northam's portrait includes references to the many issues he dealt with during his term.

Many of the recent changes to Virginia law over the last two years were the result of full Democratic control of state government. As Northam leaves office, Republicans have retaken control of the House and filed legislation to repeal some of those laws. When asked about the political split, Northam said he believed balance was a good thing.

"I hope the legislature, Republicans and Democrats, can continue the great work that we've done," he said.

Northam said his team has been working closely with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin's team to ensure a smooth transition of power.

"Four years seems long when you're looking ahead, but not when you're looking back," Northam said about his last days in office. "We are only here for a short time, especially governors."