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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro sworn in, offers message of ‘real freedom,’ rejection of extremism

Pennsylvania Governor Inauguration
Matt Rourke
Josh Shapiro is sworn in as Pennsylvania's 48th governor on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.

Former two-term Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro was sworn in as 48th governor of Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon.

The new Democratic governor said voters chose him both as a bipartisan embrace of progressive politics and a rejection of extremist ideas.

“You sent a clear message,” Shapiro said. “You came together to resoundingly reject extremism in Pennsylvania.”

Shapiro defeated Republican state Sen. Doug Mastiano with about 56% of the vote.

Pennsylvania Chief Justice Debra Todd swore Shapiro, 49, into office. In his speech, Shapiro, who is Pennsylvania’s third Jewish governor, said he swore his oath “on a bible from the Tree of Life synagogue, the scene just four years ago of the deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation’s history.”

Shapiro’s speech was peppered with references to challenges he took on during his two terms as Pennsylvania attorney general, such as the opioid crisis and the Catholic church sex abuse scandal.

“Your stories and your courage have stayed with me, and they will motivate me each and every day as your Governor,” Shapiro said. “Because ultimately, in a functioning democracy, it’s your voices that should be heard in the halls of government.”

Shapiro also offered his vision of “real freedom” — progressive policy positions that protect and include people from all backgrounds. “Where everyone gets a shot and no one is left behind, that is real freedom,” Shapiro said. “That is our challenge. That is our calling.”

Four former governors were in attendance — Democrats Tom Wolf and Mark Schweiker and Republicans Tom Corbett and Tom Ridge. Both U.S. senators – Democrats Bob Casey, Jr. and John Fetterman – were also there.

“I’m pleased to be joined by the legislative leaders and legislators of both parties,” Shapiro said, name-dropping Republican and Democratic leaders of the Republican-controlled state Senate and the state House — where it’s less clear who controls things.

Now, the new governor known for once crafting a bipartisan power-sharing agreement when he was a state Representative must walk a balance between progressive policy positions such as abortion rights and gun control — both referenced in his speech — and a divided state legislature still getting its footing.