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Wilder teams up with Youngkin, former GOP governors as transition begins
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Wilder teams up with Youngkin, former GOP governors as transition begins

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Glenn Youngkin's early-morning victory speech

Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped four former Virginia governors — three Republicans and Democrat Doug Wilder — to serve as advisers during his transition and upcoming administration.

Wilder, the nation’s first elected Black governor, will join as the sole Democrat of the group, which will meet for dinner in Richmond on Thursday, two people familiar with the meeting said.

Wilder declined to make an endorsement in the governor’s race, and was critical of Democrat Terry McAuliffe during his party’s primary and into the general election, writing blogs and expressing in interviews that the party had failed in its outreach to Black voters and urging more support for historically Black colleges and universities.

Youngkin’s advisory group will also include former Govs. Bob McDonnell, Jim Gilmore, and George Allen. The former governors will act as honorary co-chairs of the Youngkin transition.

Gilmore, who was in office from 1998 through 2002, said the advisory group would be akin to a “Murderer’s Row,” a reference to the dominant New York Yankees teams of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the late 1920s.

An aide for the Youngkin transition who declined to be named said Youngkin tapped the group for their “institutional knowledge and experience.”

“Glenn ran as a political outsider that is going to change the status quo in Richmond, which has had one party rule in recent years. But, it’s helpful to have the advice and wisdom of former governors who have done the job before,” the aide said.

“He understands he needs to govern in a bipartisan way, and will be in touch with other governors who are not in that advisory council, and would be honored and humbled to have their input as well.”

On Wednesday, the Youngkin transition formally announced the creation of a steering committee to help with the transfer of power. The committee will be led by the director of the transition Jeff Goettman, who led operations for the campaign. It will be co-chaired by Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, and Kay Coles James, a former Virginia health secretary under Allen, who served as director of the Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush and is outgoing president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The committee members include local elected officials, lawmakers, two other former secretaries, business owners, law enforcement officers, veterans and parents.

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It’s typical for incoming governors to tap the experience of past leaders in their ascent to power. Wilder’s inclusion is notable as the only Democrat in the group among the six living former Democratic governors.

Wilder, 90, was Virginia’s chief executive from 1990 to 1994. He served as lieutenant governor from 1986 to 1990. He was Richmond’s mayor from 2005 to 2009.

In a post to his blog, Wilder Visions, last fall, Wilder blasted McAuliffe for trying to “leap frog” over three African American hopefuls for the Democratic nomination and back into the Executive Mansion.

It’s not the first time Wilder has declined to endorse a fellow Democrat. For example, in 2009, he declined to endorse Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, the Democratic nominee for governor against Republican McDonnell.

Over the summer, Wilder ought $250 million for Virginia’s five historically Black colleges and universities from the state’s cut of the American Rescue Plan to address what he called the “deliberate denial and underfunding of HBCUs.”

In another blog post, the former governor, who studied chemistry at Virginia Union University and law at Howard University, criticized outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly for declining his request, arguing that the needs of the Black community “continue to be ignored” by Democratic leaders.

“When I watched Glenn Youngkin last evening commit to provide funding for all five of our HBCUs in any budget he submitted to the legislature if he were governor, it was historical,” he wrote on Oct. 23.

McAuliffe, in his “Lifting Black Virginians” plan, had promised to increase funding for HBCUs, calling an increase of funding for the “neglected” schools “integral.”

A House Democratic leader, Del. Luke Torian of Prince William, noted that the schools received nearly $300 million in direct aid from the federal government as part of pandemic relief, and criticized Wilder’s claims as “misleading and ... very disappointing.”

In 2019, an independent investigation commissioned by Virginia Commonwealth University found that Wilder had kissed a student without her consent, following an allegation by the student. Wilder, who remains a distinguished professor at the university’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government, has challenged the findings.

Wilder did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Allen was governor from 1994 to 1998, and McDonnell from 2010 to 2014.

mleonor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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