WASHINGTON — County Democratic officials in the Albany area on Wednesday praised President Joe Biden’s inaugural address for its repeated call for unity. They also were excited to watch Vice President Kamala Harris become the first woman to hold that position.
“Today’s inauguration means more to me, to women, to young girls across our communities than many would assume,” Carolyn Riggs, chairwoman of the Greene County Democratic Committee, said in a statement.
Biden was sworn in as president shortly before noon Wednesday, two weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that left five people dead. His address focused on uniting the nation, calling the inauguration “America’s day.”
Area political leaders celebrated the inauguration in different ways. Some, like former Albany County Democratic Chairman Jack Flynn, watched from home with their families. Others, like Dutchess County Chairwoman Elisa Sumner, hosted virtual watch parties with members of their party committees.
Keith Kanaga, chairman of the Columbia County Democratic Party, said that Biden’s speech was “terrific,” citing his theme of unity and an end to what Biden called “this uncivil war.”
“I think, especially now, it’s something that is so important for this country,” said Kanaga.
Sumner said that she cried as she watched Harris take the oath of office. “We may not have shattered the final glass ceiling,” she said. “But we’ve gotten mighty close.”
Flynn said Harris’ swearing in was a powerful moment for his two daughters. He hopes for the day America can see the first woman president and also a first president of other races.
Gregory Fingar, chairman of the Columbia County Republican Party, appreciated the peaceful transition of power, saying, “I wish the Biden administration nothing but success, health and peace.”
Brett Broge, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party, anticipates that the new administration and Democratic-controlled Congress will enact massive COVID-19 relief packages that provide direct aid for the state.
Broge said the packages should “alleviate some of those shortfalls” facing New York and other states.
Because of the pandemic and heightened security concerns following the siege on the Capitol, the inauguration was smaller and more subdued than in past years. Everyone wore masks; except for those directly on stage. Members of Congress and other guests were spaced apart. The National Mall was closed to the public.
Margaret Bartley, chairwoman of the Essex County Democratic Party, said she approved of the staging of the inauguration. Having attended previous inaugurations with large crowds, she said the limited audience necessitated by COVID-19 precautions had its benefits.
“This was very intimate to me to be able to watch the faces of the people up close,” Bartley said. “I just got so much more out of it.”
Broge commented on the flags placed on the National Mall where the crowd would have normally been, saying “it was patriotic to the core.”
Ultimately, the county leaders believe that the inauguration of Biden and Harris could bring change to the country if people work together across party lines.
“This is the time. This is our chance to come together to do something positive or some things positive,” Kanaga said. “He’s got an amazing agenda. And it’s going need a lot of effort not only on their part, but on ours.”