Within hours of taking office, Virginia's newly sworn-in Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) cleaned house - firing dozens of lawyers, including those in the Civil Rights division - and announcing investigations into the Virginia Parole Board and Loudon County Public Schools.
"I've been told incoming AG @JasonMiyaresVA just FIRED the entire civil rights division in the Attorney General's office," tweeted VA State Senator Louise Lucas.
I've been told incoming AG @JasonMiyaresVA just FIRED the entire civil rights division in the Attorney General's office. My bill helped create and expand the authority that this division uses.— L. Louise Lucas (@SenLouiseLucas) January 14, 2022
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Miyares notified around 30 staff members they're being let go - including 17 attorneys and 13 staff members. The attorneys include the solicitor general, Herring's deputies, and reportedly Helen Hardiman - an assistant AG who worked on housing discrimination.
Miyares, who will take over Democratic AG Mark Herring, campaigned on a promise to pursue legislation that would enable state AGs to circumvent "social justice" attorneys who refuse to vigorously prosecute crimes. As Fox News noted in November, "Under current law, the AG's office can prosecute a case on behalf of a commonwealth's attorney – Virginia's version of a district attorney (DA) – so long as the DA requests it."
"George Soros-backed commonwealth’s attorneys are not doing their jobs," said Miyares in May 2021 comments to the Arlington County Republican Committee.
Liberal billionaire George Soros has repeatedly poured thousands into prosecutor's races in Virginia. In 2019, Soros provided a significant cash infusion to three winning progressive candidates, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti in Arlington County (nearly $1 million from Soros); Buta Biberaj in Loudon County ($850,000 from Soros); and Steve Descano in Fairfax County ($600,000 from Soros). Soros spent about $200,000 in a prosecutor's race in Norfolk this year. His candidate went on to win the race. -Fox News
When reached for comment, Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said: "During the campaign, it was made clear that now Attorney General-elect Miyares and Attorney General Herring have very different visions for the office," adding "We are restructuring the office, as every incoming AG has done in the past."
In a Saturday statement just houtrs after Miyares and GOP Gov. Glenn Younkin were sworn in, he explained why he launched the investigations into the parole board and the school district.
"One of the reasons Virginians get so fed up with government is the lack of transparency - and that’s a big issue here," he wrote. "The Virginia Parole Board broke the law when they let out murders, rapists, and cop killers early on their sentences without notifying the victims. Loudoun Country Public Schools covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain, leading to an additional assault of a young girl."
Loudoun County became a focal point in Youngkin’s gubernatorial race against former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe following the arrest of a 14-year-old male high school student, who identifies as nonbinary, who has been found guilty of raping a female student in a school bathroom. That student was transferred to another school where he allegedly raped another student and the district has been accused of covering up the crime which resulted in one of the alleged victim's parents being arrested at a school board meeting. The offending student has been placed on the sex offenders registry for life as part of his sentence. -Fox News
Meanwhile, within hours of his inauguration, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed 11 executive actions - including lifting the mask mandate in Virginia schools, and "ending divisive concepts, including critical race theory, in public education."
As Terri Wu via the Epoch Times reports:
He also signed an executive directive rescinding the vaccine mandate for all state employees.
The 55-year-old former business executive, in his inauguration speech at Richmond, emphasized a “common path forward” with “our deep and abiding respect for individual freedom.” Youngkin vowed to strengthen and renew the “spirit of Virginia” associated with the history of the state as the home of American democracy. He credited Virginians with the spirit of tenacity, grit, and resilience.
Youngkin said he was “ready to lead and serve, starting on day one,” and it would start in the classroom to get Virginia’s children “career and college ready.” The crowd of an estimated size of 6,000 burst into a loud cheer upon hearing from Youngkin that he would “remove politics from the classroom.”
“Virginia is open for business,” Youngkin promised to create 400,000 new jobs and 10,000 new startups in the four years of his administration by reducing regulations and increasing job-related training.
According to him, residents of the commonwealth will see the “largest tax rebate in Virginia’s history.” In addition, he promised to “fully fund” and “return respect to” law enforcement.
‘Hope’ and ‘Optimism’
Voters echoed the sentiment of “hope” and “optimism” highlighted in Youngkin’s speech.
“I’m excited because we have somebody in here who’s willing to fight like we do, just on a higher level,” said Shirley Green, a public relations specialist, while waiting to join the inauguration ceremony. Improving the school system was the first step she wanted the new administration to take. And she was “optimistic” that the Youngkin administration would deliver their campaign promise because of their “humility” and “passion for Virginians.”
Green grew up as a Democrat in the District of Columbia metropolitan area but became a conservative 13 years ago. She said she had found the Democratic Party having a different vision than “working for the people.”
“I feel great. It’s a great day for Virginia,” said Joe. He and his wife attended the inauguration ceremony in “Youngkin vests,” the same style of fleece vests Youngkin often wore on his campaign trail. The couple owns a local safety business and prefers not to disclose their names. The previous Virginia administration “didn’t always take in consideration of the people” in its decision-making, said the wife.
“Education is the number one concern,” she said, adding that parents among their employees and employees at their client organizations—Republicans, independents, and Democrats—voted for Youngkin “because of their concerns for their families.”
Aiden Sheahan and Alyson Bucker with the University of Virginia were among a group of five college students and graduates who also attended the ceremony. They made phone calls and door-to-door visits for the Youngkin campaign. Sheahan said he saw “a lot of optimism” during the campaign; people had hopes that many things, including jobs, the standard of living, and policies, would change with the new governor.
The group described the new Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears, a black American who immigrated from Jamaica, as “confident” and “powerful.”
“She doesn’t use her skin color, her circumstances, or her identity to promote herself. She used her accomplishments, rather than something she cannot control, to promote herself,” added Matthew Carpenter, a recent college graduate from Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Challenges from Day One
The former executive who campaigned as a political outsider will face challenges working with a state legislature with divided party control, and some priorities facing deadlocks.
The General Assembly session began on Jan. 12, with a newly empowered Republican majority (52–48) in the State House, and a Senate where Democrats still hold a 21–19 majority.
In the next 60 days, lawmakers will review and adopt a two-year state budget proposed by former Governor Ralph Northam on Dec. 16. Youngkin has already said “the recognition of the need for tax cuts is understated” in Northam’s plan.
The new Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert announced education, inflation, and public safety as Virginia House GOP’s agenda for 2022. By comparison, House Democrats’ “top priority is to protect the advances they made against Republican efforts to roll them back,” in three key areas: supporting public schools, keeping families healthy, and ensuring economic security for all.
With a Democrat-controlled House and Senate in the past two years, former Democratic Governor Northam signed into law in 2020 a series of liberal measures, including increased gun control, lifting abortion restrictions, and relaxed voter requirements.
“I think we have a Governor-elect who is going to come in and do something about some of our school problems, introduce our freedoms, and be more protective of law enforcement. And I think that gives us a lot of hope,” veteran Republican State Senator Steve Newman told ABC13 a day before the inauguration.
An inaugural parade followed the ceremony. On Sunday, the three-day events will close with an open house at the governor’s mansion. Along with Youngkin, Winsome Sears was sworn in on Saturday as the Lieutenant Governor and Jason Miyares as the Attorney General. Sears will hold the tie-breaking vote in the State Senate.