Virginia’s executive branch in state of flux after scandals rock state Democrats

UPDATE — 2/8, 4:57 p.m. EST: A second woman has come forward through her attorney to accuse Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault while a student attending Duke University in 2000.

A statement by Meredith Waton’s legal counsel said she “shared her account of the rape with friends in a series of emails and Facebook messages that are now in our possession. Additionally, we have statements from former classmates corroborating that Ms. Watson immediately told friends that Mr. Fairfax had raped her.”

 

UPDATE — 2/6, 11:59 a.m. EST: The second in line to assume Virginia’s governorship, state Attorney General Mark Herring, admitted on Wednesday to wearing blackface at a party in 1980 while attending the University of Virginia.

“[S]ome friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” a statement by Herring read. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is currently under fire for a racist photo discovered in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. The image depicts two students, one dressed in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan outfit.

The picture was included on Northam’s yearbook page, but Virginia’s Democratic governor has been dubious in his remembrance of the act.  The image in-question was first published by a right-wing media site after Northam said last week he would sign a late-term abortion bill allowing termination of an infant “up until the moment of birth”, as characterized by the Republican Standard.

(courtesy Eastern Virginia Medical School via CNN)

On Friday, Northam stated he was one of the students depicted in the photo, but could not remember which one. Then, in a Saturday press conference in Richmond, the governor changed his account, saying he was neither of the students pictured, but admitted to wearing blackface that same year in a dance contest in which he dressed-up as Michael Jackson.

“I dressed up as Michael Jackson. I had the shoes, I had a glove and I used just a little bit of shoe polish to put under my cheeks. And the reason I used a very little bit is because I don’t know if anybody’s ever tried that, but you cannot get shoe polish off,” Northam said.

Northam’s comments were detrimental, suggesting he had dressed in blackface before. Northam also showed a lack of tact and seriousness in his address. When asked by a media member if he could still do the “moonwalk”, Northam appeared to be preparing to do so, before being stopped by his wife who stood next to him.

Northam also apologized via Twitter, but refuses to step down as governor, saying he believes it is his duty to atone for the transgression by finishing his term.  A number of Northam’s former medical school classmates have also vouched for the governor, denying any remembrance of racial animus on his part, although the yearbook designer told CNN all personal photos were submitted by the students themselves.

Most of the Democratic Party’s leadership nationwide and throughout the Old Dominion State, including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Cory Booker and Terry McAuliffe, have called for Northam to resign.

“It’s a mess all around. He has been abandoned by every major Democrat and most Republicans. He’s all alone, so it is not viable for him to continue as governor,” said Eugene Robinson, Associate Editor of the Washington Post.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax stands next in the line of succession if Northam resigns, and would become only the second black governor in Virginia’s history.

Fairfax is battling controversy of his own, however, as a woman has come forward accusing the soon-to-be 40-year-old of sexually assaulting her at a Boston hotel room in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention. The woman alerted the Washington Post of the alleged incident in November 2017.

However, the Post has yet to uncover any evidence and Fairfax has openly denounced the allegations, saying: “Everything was 100 percent consensual. Not only that, the same person called me sometime later and wanted to meet with me, wanted to come visit me [and] wanted me to meet her mother.”

Fairfax’s chief of staff and communications director have also issued a statement corroborating his story. However, an investigation is still underway.

The state of political affairs in Virginia looks bleak for Democrats. If they want to attract voters in 2020 and 2021, the party must move on from its current scandals or it could hinder their efforts in the next two elections.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication.

 

[AP] [Washington Post] [Washington Times] [New York Post] [NBC News] [WJLA ABC7] [Photo courtesy AP/Getty Images via New York Post]

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