RICHMOND, Va. — Ralph Shearer Northam took the oath of office Saturday as Virginia’s 73rd governor, invoking the state’s “complex” history of both slavery and patriotic leadership to call for a new “Virginia way” forward.

“This unique heritage endows us with a responsibility to shape the future, to leave this place better than we found it,” said Northam, a 58-year-old Democrat.

A former state senator and lieutenant governor, Northam succeeds his friend and benefactor, Terry McAuliffe, after leading a wave election last fall in which Democrats made dramatic gains in the state Legislature.

Although his win was powered by Democratic resistance to President Trump, Northam issued a call for civility before about 4,000 guests at the capitol building.

Northam takes over while Democratic fervor is at a modern high point in Virginia, after elections that remade the General Assembly so that it features the first Latinas as well as its first openly transgender and lesbian members.

While November’s blue wave cut into two decades of wide Republican majorities in the House of Delegates, the result is a closely divided chamber – 51 Republicans to 49 Democrats – that will have to work as one.

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