Vir­ginian pledges heal­ing

Won’t re­sign, gov­er­nor says; state’s No. 2 also re­jects calls to quit.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ALAN SUDERMAN In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Steve Hel­ber, Ben Fin­ley, Julie Pace, Michael Biesecker, Jonathan Drew, Michael Kun­zel­man, Alanna Durkin Richer, Thomas Beau­mont and staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

RICH­MOND, Va. — Vir­ginia’s gov­er­nor pledged to work at heal­ing the state’s racial di­vide Satur­day, even as calls mounted for the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor to re­sign — cap­ping an as­ton­ish­ing week that saw all three of the state’s top elected of­fi­cials em­broiled in po­ten­tially ca­reer-end­ing scan­dals.

Two women have ac­cused Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax of sex­ual as­sault, and he has em­phat­i­cally de­nied both al­le­ga­tions. Af­ter the sec­ond al­le­ga­tion was made Fri­day, Fair­fax — who stands to be­come the state’s sec­ond black gov­er­nor if Gov. Ralph Northam re­signs over a racially of­fen­sive photo — was bar­raged with de­mands to step down from top Democrats, in­clud­ing a num­ber of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls and most of Vir­ginia’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion.

Fair­fax is­sued a state­ment Satur­day again deny­ing the al­le­ga­tions and say­ing his en­coun­ters with the women were con­sen­sual. He made clear he is not im­me­di­ately re­sign­ing and called for “space in this mo­ment for due process.”

He’s also call­ing for author­i­ties, in­clud­ing the FBI, to in­ves­ti­gate.

Mean­while, Northam — now a year into his four-year term — an­nounced his in­ten­tion to stay in of­fice at a Fri­day af­ter­noon Cab­i­net meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior of­fi­cial who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

In so do­ing, Northam de­fied prac­ti­cally the en­tire Demo­cratic Party, which rose up against him af­ter the of­fen­sive photo on his 1984 med­i­cal school year­book page sur­faced and he ac­knowl­edged wear­ing black­face in the 1980s.

In his first in­ter­view since the scan­dal broke out, Northam told The Wash­ing­ton Post on Satur­day that the up­roar has pushed him to con­front the state’s deep and lin­ger­ing di­vi­sions over race, as well as his own in­sen­si­tiv­ity. But he said that re­flec­tion has con­vinced him that, by re­main­ing in of­fice, he can work to re­solve them.

“It’s ob­vi­ous from what hap­pened this week that we still have a lot of work to do,” Northam said in the in­ter­view, con­ducted at the Gov­er­nor’s Man­sion. “There are still some very deep wounds in Vir­ginia, and es­pe­cially in the area of eq­uity.”

Northam said he planned to work for the rest of his term to ad­dress is­sues stem­ming from in­equal­ity, in­clud­ing im­prov­ing ac­cess to health care, hous­ing and trans­porta­tion. He also re­peated his con­tention that he is not the one pic­tured on his year­book page in black­face. But he could not ex­plain how it wound up there, or why he had taken re­spon­si­bil­ity for it.

Mo­ments af­ter Northam’s Fri­day meet­ing with his Cab­i­net, a sec­ond woman went pub­lic with ac­cu­sa­tions against Fair­fax. A lawyer for Meredith Wat­son, 39, said in a state­ment that Fair­fax raped Wat­son 19 years ago while they were stu­dents at Duke Univer­sity.

Vanessa Tyson, a Cal­i­for­nia col­lege pro­fes­sor, ear­lier said Fair­fax forced her to per­form oral sex on him at a Bos­ton ho­tel in 2004.

Fair­fax has de­nied both al­le­ga­tions and on Satur­day asked that “no one rush to judg­ment.”

“Our Amer­i­can val­ues don’t just work when it’s con­ve­nient — they must be ap­plied at the most dif­fi­cult of times,” he said.

Duke cam­pus po­lice have no crim­i­nal re­ports nam­ing Fair­fax, univer­sity spokesman Michael Schoen­feld said. Durham po­lice spokesman Wil Glenn also said he couldn’t find a re­port in the depart­ment’s sys­tem on the 2000 al­le­ga­tion.

Top Democrats run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2020 have called for Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion, in­clud­ing Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York, and El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts.

Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Bobby Scott of Vir­ginia said Fair­fax should re­sign if the al­le­ga­tions against him were true.

The Vir­ginia Black Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus joined calls for Fair­fax’s de­par­ture. And a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the state House, Del. Pa­trick Hope, said he in­tends to in­tro­duce ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Fair­fax on Mon­day if Fair­fax hasn’t left by then.

An at­tor­ney for Wat­son re­leased a state­ment Satur­day, say­ing her client would be will­ing to tes­tify at an im­peach­ment hear­ing.

On Satur­day, Vir­ginia’s House Speaker Kirk Cox joined the cho­rus call­ing for Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion. Cox — a Repub­li­can, and third in line for gov­er­nor should Northam step down — said in a state­ment that Fair­fax’s abil­ity to gov­ern has been “per­ma­nently im­paired” by the “mul­ti­ple, se­ri­ous cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions” of sex­ual as­sault.

The Demo­cratic Party of Vir­ginia also called Satur­day for Fair­fax’s res­ig­na­tion. In a state­ment, party chair­man Su­san Swecker said the al­le­ga­tions against Fair­fax are se­ri­ous and cred­i­ble and make clear he “can no longer ful­fill the du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of his post.”

AP/The Wash­ing­ton Post/KATHER­INE FREY

“There are still some very deep wounds in Vir­ginia, and es­pe­cially in the area of eq­uity,” Vir­ginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Satur­day in Rich­mond.

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