HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf kicked off his second term Tuesday with a call for Pennsylvanians to work together to build a stronger, fairer and more prosperous future. Battle-tested and perhaps more pragmatic than the politician who endured first-term budget fights to regain voters’ confidence, Wolf swept to an easy re-election win in November.
“I ask you to choose hope over hopelessness, empathy over apathy,” Wolf said in his inaugural address. “I ask you to choose action over passivity. I ask you to take the future of our commonwealth into your own hands and help lead us forward.”The Democrat, no longer the outsider who spent $10 million of his own money in winning his first run for the governor’s office, still faces substantial Republican majorities in the Legislature that have proven hostile to large elements of his agenda.
Still, the election left him with more Democratic allies in the Legislature than before, and he seems happy with his new lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, after a first term spent barely speaking with outgoing Lt. Gov. Mike Stack. Fetterman was sworn in about two hours before Wolf, in the Senate chambers.
Wolf plans to push for policies to fight climate change, improve public education, fix inequities in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system and make voting easier and more secure.
In near-freezing temperatures outside and a crowd of a thousand or more, Chief Justice Thomas Saylor of the state Supreme Court administered Wolf’s oath of office, using a 19th century Bible from Wolf’s family.
Later, in the speech outside the Capitol’s East Wing, Wolf said his toughest day in office during his first term was Oct. 27, when a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. A survivor of that attack, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, delivered an invocation before Wolf’s swearing-in.
“We all came together,” Wolf said. “We all did what we could. We all leaned on each other. We all found the strength to carry on.”
Myers, who said he has stopped using the word “hate” in the wake of the attack, asked that God grant Wolf “the recognition that the vast majority of people are good people, and that their goodness will always overcome others who use the h-word in speech and deed.”
From all appearances, Wolf has emerged from his first term as a changed policy strategist. In his first year, he fought — and lost — a record nine-month budget stalemate over his proposal for a multibillion-dollar tax increase. He has since emphasized the benefits of fiscal austerity, restoring trust in government, and achieving bipartisan agreement.
Flush with more than $32 million in campaign contributions, Wolf trounced Republican Scott Wagner in November’s election by 17 points after leading polls by double digits the whole way. He was backed by a unified Democratic Party and aided by a grassroots backlash to President Donald Trump.
In his speech, Wolf said Ben Franklin was wrong to worry in 1749 that too many German immigrants were streaming into the state — including Wolf’s own ancestors.
“Throughout its history, Pennsylvania has never been defined by one ethnicity, or one religion, or one ideology, or one region,” Wolf said. “We have always been diverse. And we’ve always been at the epicenter of change.”
Wolf, 70, spent most of his adulthood running a family building supply company in York County and was prominent in civic affairs in York. He was a longtime donor to Democratic political causes and served as then-Gov. Ed Rendell’s revenue secretary during 2007-08.
The mild-mannered Wolf attended Dartmouth College before earning a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He lives in Mount Wolf, a town named for his forebears about 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of the Capitol. He has continued to live there while serving as governor, rather than in the state’s official gubernatorial residence along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg.
Fetterman, 49, made his name as the mayor of the down-on-its-luck steel town of Braddock, near Pittsburgh, and became a minor media darling for his efforts to help revive it. Fetterman beat Stack in the Democratic primary last year and was elected along with Wolf in November.
In remarks before Wolf’s swearing-in, Fetterman called him “a man who has always served with the utmost integrity, dignity and honor.”
An inauguration night celebration was to follow at the Farm Show Complex, featuring music by The Roots and Pennsylvania-made food and drinks.