Democrat Josh Shapiro will become the 48th governor of Pennsylvania at Tuesday’s inaugural ceremony at the state Capitol, taking the oath of office on a cold winter day in the nation’s fifth-most populous state on the heels of his blowout win in November’s election.
Shapiro, 49, will come into office with more experience in state government than any of his recent predecessors, including eight years as a state lawmaker and six as the state’s elected attorney general.
He will take the oath on a stage erected behind the state’s ornate Capitol in Harrisburg, with lawmakers, members of Congress and others looking on.
On stage will be just over a dozen people Shapiro invited — including survivors of child sexual abuse, parents of children killed by gun violence and the widows of two state troopers killed in the line of duty — who aides say symbolize his accomplishments as attorney general and his bipartisan policy aims as governor.
His friends and supporters, stars of the state’s political world and many of those who will work in the new administration were in the Capitol early Tuesday, greeting each other and lining up for credentials hours ahead of the ceremony.
In his speech, Shapiro won’t spell out specific policy aims, aides say, but he will emphasize themes he developed before and after the election: that voters are embracing democracy, rejecting extremism and seeking progress on important quality-of-life issues.
He’ll take the reins of a sprawling state government — it employs roughly 80,000 employees and handles more than $100 billion a year in state and federal money — that has billions in reserve and a stronger-than-usual economy for the slow-growing state.
But he also is moving across the street from the attorney general’s office to the executive suite in the Capitol at a time when the House of Representatives is paralyzed by a partisan fight for control and Republican lawmakers are aiming to take away some executive branch leeway to enact regulations.
Shapiro is succeeding outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who was term-limited, and will be the first governor of Pennsylvania since 1966 to be elected to succeed a member of his own party.
Shapiro himself has preached bipartisanship, emphasizing his support from independents and Republicans in the election when he rolled up a powerhouse 15 percentage-point victory over the far-right Republican nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Shapiro benefited from a Democratic electorate inflamed by the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade.
In Shapiro, they saw someone who would protect abortion rights with his veto pen and ensure the 2024 presidential election — when Pennsylvania again is expected to be a premier battleground — will be free and fair, and not overturned if the Republican loses.
Still, when Shapiro becomes governor, every new law must have a GOP stamp of approval, considering the six-seat Republican majority in the state Senate.
To that end, Shapiro has tried to avoid radioactive political issues, staked out the middle on various issues and hired several Republicans for his Cabinet.
Shapiro will sign ethics orders for his administration later this week, aides say, and will deliver his first speech to a joint session of the Legislature when he presents his first budget plan March 7.
By the time Shapiro takes the oath of office just after noon on Tuesday, he will have resigned as attorney general. In control will be his top deputy of six years, Michelle Henry, a career prosecutor who Shapiro plans to nominate to fill the last two years of his term.
Chief Justice Debra Todd will administer his oath while Shapiro, a devout Jew, will place his hand on a stack of three copies of the Hebrew Bible.
One is a family Bible; the second is from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where a gunman in 2018 killed 11 worshippers in the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history; and the third was an Army-issued tome carried by Herman Hershman of Philadelphia on D-Day in 1944.
Members of several faiths will deliver an invocation at the event, where the capacity is about 4,400.
Taking the oath separately in the Senate chamber will be fellow Democrat Austin Davis, an ex-state lawmaker from the Pittsburgh area who will become Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor.
The inauguration will culminate in a sold-out, $50-per-ticket bash at Rock Lititz Studios in Lititz featuring performances by rapper Wiz Khalifa, singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson and indie rock band Mt. Joy.