On Tuesday, Terry McAuliffe was elected governor of Virginia. Following the lengthy campaign, the real work of the job begins Wednesday during the ten-week gubernatorial transition.
Throughout this time, Governor-elect McAuliffe and his transition team will organize his administration, appointment individuals to important state jobs, and finalize key proposals that will make up his policy agenda. The transition team will be bombarded with advice from friends, supporters, and donors.
How will the new governor and his team approach the transition?
McAuliffe may first look to his most notable friends and advisers, Bill and Hillary Clinton, for guidance. In 1992, the Clinton presidential transition stalled following the slow appointment of White House chief of staff and failure to gain Senate approval for the first two choices to run the Department of Justice. The lesson from 1992 was to move decisively but carefully on organizational and personnel decisions.
Equally important will be how the McAuliffe transition approaches the issue of transparency. Newly-elected President Obama believed this so critical that he issued a sweeping "Seat at the Table" policy that required any individual or organization interested in meeting with the transition team to post their advice on a public website. That website also allowed the public to track with whom the transition team was meeting on a daily basis. The president's transition plan had its flaws, and exceptions were given, particularly to his ban on lobbyists, but he addressed transparency in a more comprehensive way than any previous president had during the transition period.
How the governor's transition team approaches transparency matters because it will demonstrate how influential donors and other special interests will be in the new administration. McAuliffe -- who made his name as a D.C. lobbyist -- received the endorsement of dozens of unions and trade associations. Will these endorsements lead to political favors? Will key appointments go to union leaders and paid lobbyists? Will the new governor fast-track those proposals supported by his biggest donors? McAuliffe has already joked about one donor, Aubrey Lane, as a possible Secretary of Transportation.
Failing to endorse an open and transparent transition plan will harm public trust and the faith so many Virginians have placed in the new governor. Governor-elect McAuliffe should clearly explain how his transition team will make personnel and policy decisions, and how they will accept advice and recommendations from lobbyists and donors. The general public -- supporters and opponents alike -- should be given a seat at the table during the next ten weeks.