Va. gov-elect: Inauguration to be about frugality

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov.-elect Bob McDonnell said Tuesday he planned to mark his inauguration with an eye toward frugality and helping those who are suffering in tough economic times.

McDonnell said he will raise about $1.5 million for the inauguration, much less than his two predecessors. The events, which begin Friday and run through the Jan. 16 swearing-in ceremony, will be marked by volunteer and charitable opportunities that fit the theme “A Commonwealth of Opportunity.”

“Virginia is a land of extraordinary opportunity,” he told reporters Tuesday. “What we do best here in Virginia is not to make guarantees through government, but we provide the maximum opportunity for people to use their God-given talents to pursue the American dream.”

Leading up the inauguration, the incoming Republican governor will volunteer at food banks and homeless shelters, speak to children, meet with military families and visit with inmates.

During inaugural balls, the parade and other events, stations will be set up to take coat donations for the Salvation Army and food and cash donations for the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.

The events begin Friday when McDonnell volunteers at a food bank and then attends an inaugural ball in Abingdon.

McDonnell said he would carry the theme throughout his four years as governor. Virginia governors are barred from successive terms.

In New Jersey, the only other state to elect a governor last year, they are forgoing the traditional black-tie inaugural ball for a dinner with business attire. The tickets still are $500, but organizers say much of that will go to charity.

McDonnell said his inaugural committee tried to scale back events from previous inaugurations.

“At the same time I know there are an extraordinary number of people who worked very hard for many months, in fact years, to get to the point that Bill Bolling, Ken Cuccinelli and I were elected and they want to be able to have a couple days to celebrate that,” McDonnell said.

Bolling won his second term as lieutenant governor. Cuccinelli was elected attorney general.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s inaugural committee raised nearly $3.2 million to use on events in Williamsburg and Richmond. Former Gov. Mark Warner raised more than $2.5 million for his inauguration.

While McDonnell said his committee would raise no more than $1.5 million, it will not file its first campaign finance report until March 15.

McDonnell said he wanted to use the inaugural events to highlight those in need and give Virginians an opportunity to help them.

“We are the most generous nation on Earth, whether you measure it in donations of time, talent, treasure, foreign aid by our federal government,” McDonnell said. “We do more, with perhaps less appreciation, than any country in the world, and Virginians do that extremely well.”

Leaders of the Salvation Army and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks said they were excited to get the boost at a time when need continues to increase because of the economy.

“People are so generous during the holidays and then January and February are kind of not on the radar at that point, so this kind of helps us build our inventory,” said Leslie Van Horn, executive director of the Federation of Virginia Food Banks.