By Logan Bogert and Caitlin Barbieri
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Virginians had a lot of reasons to endure biting cold temperatures Saturday to witness Ralph Northam’s inauguration as governor. Some of the estimated 5,000 spectators came with a plea of help. Some wanted to witness democracy in action. And others had dedicated themselves to the Northam campaign.
“I’m here to celebrate our way ahead,” Christine Payne of Williamsburg said, referring to Northam’s inaugural theme. “I worked hard for him since his primary, and I am here to continue that support. I hope to see his campaign promises come to fruition, from the environment all to the economy.”
Sophin Sok, a Richmond resident from Cambodia, said she came to the inaugural ceremony in hopes of getting Northam’s attention to pardon her fiance, who has been detained for three months and faces deportation.
“He came here at the age of 3, and he’s the biological father to three of my kids.” Sok said. “About a decade ago, he plead guilty to a charge, but he served his time, paid his debt to society and he turned his life around and pretty much put his family as a priority.
“They didn’t prepare him for anything, they just took him. They didn’t allow us to prepare ourselves — so now it’s kind of hard for me because he is the main provider also and he’s a great father,” Sok said.
Sok said she and her fiance have children ages 1, 2 and 6. They want Northam to write a pardon letter so he can come home and get a second chance to stay in America.
For Kevin Miller of Danville, the inaugural parade brought a special family meaning. He came to watch his son perform with the George Washington High School marching band. “It’s a great honor for them and an opportunity for them to do something they don’t get to do very often,” Miller said.
The ceremony and parade showcased Virginia’s diversity.
The day opened with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Boy and Girl Scouts from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center. And it closed with the blessing of the grounds by representatives of Virginia’s Indian tribes.
Universities from across the state took part in the parade, as did such groups as Equality Virginia, the Cultural Center of India and the Charlottesville Cardinals Wheelchair Basketball Team.