Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, February 7, 2019
The three top Democrats in the commonwealth of Virginia seem engaged in a remarkable game of one-upmanship – or is it one-downmanship?
Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring are all facing calls to step down amid a trio of scandals in what had been a Red state before the heavy influx to northern Virginia of affluent federal workers and fellow travelers who tend to vote Democratic.
For those keeping score at home, here’s a quick rundown:
Gov. Ralph Northam
In the span of a few days the governor advocated for infanticide, said he was either in blackface or a Ku Klux Klan outfit in a yearbook photo (then took it back), and admitted to wearing blackface on a separate occasion to mimic Michael Jackson.
Democrats across the country, including nearly all of the contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination, have called on Northam to resign. Virginia’s two U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Bobby Scott said the governor should resign.
The Washington Post, which wholeheartedly endorsed Northam for the office, has called on him to resign.
Herring, the third in line for the governorship, had said in the days after the scandal broke that “It is no longer possible for Gov. Northam to lead our commonwealth, and it is time for him to step down.”
He has thus far refused to step down.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Farifax, who would take over as governor if Northam were to resign, has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
Vanessa Tyson, through her lawyers, issued a statement on Feb. 6 saying that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him in a hotel room during the convention in Boston.
Fairfax had said his encounter with Tyson was consensual.
In her statement, Tyson said “I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual.”
Calls for Fairfax to resign have been few and far between among Democrats.
The National Organization for Women did call on the lieutenant governor to step down.
“We believe and support survivors,” NOW said in a statement on Feb. 6. “This is more important than who is going to be the next governor of Virginia. This isn’t about politics. It’s about a woman who has experienced sexual assault – a serious crime – at the hands of a powerful man, who is now attacking her character.”
Tyson has hired the law firm which represented Christine Blasey Ford in her accusations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Fairfax has hired the law firm which represented Kavanaugh.
Attorney General Mark Herring
The commonwealth’s attorney general, second in line to succeed Northam, has also admitted to having worn blackface in the past.
Herring on Feb. 6 issued a statement admitting he wore brown makeup and a wig in 1980 to dress up as a black rapper when he was a University of Virginia student.
This came days after Herring had said Northam should resign for wearing blackface.
The NAACP and Washington Post have called on Herring to resign.
“Honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general,” Herring said on Feb. 6.
Next in line
That would be state House Speaker Kirk Cox – a Republican.
Cox became speaker by sheer chance in 2017 when the GOP gained its one-seat control of the Virginia House of Delegates. The election for the balance-tipping seat resulted in a tie – and the Republican candidate won when his name was drawn from a bowl.
Cox has called on Northam to resign and said Herring “should adhere to the standard he has set for others or he loses credibility.”
Cox added that the allegations against Fairfax are “extremely serious” and said the lieutenant governor, his alleged victim and the people of Virginia “all deserve a full airing of the facts.”
The Washington Examiner compiled a rundown of the eight possibilities in the Virginia governorship saga:
- Only Gov. Northam resigns: Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), Attorney General Mark Herring (D).
- Only Lt. Gov. Fairfax resigns: Gov. Ralph Northam (D), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), Attorney General Mark Herring (D).
- Only Attorney General Mark Herring resigns: Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), new AG named by GOP legislature.
- Northam and Fairfax resign: Gov. Mark Herring (D), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), new AG named by GOP legislature.
- Northam and Herring resign: Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), new AG named by GOP legislature.
- Fairfax and Herring resign: Gov. Ralph Northam (D), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), new AG named by GOP legislature.
- Northam, Fairfax, and Herring Resign: Gov. Kirk Cox (R), acting Lt. Gov. Steve Newman (R), new AG named by GOP legislature.
- Nobody resigns: WTH?