Dayton Daily News

Virginia governor says he won’t step down from post

Lt. governor hit with second sex assault allegation.

- By Alan Suderman

Virginia Gov. RICHMOND, VA —

Ralph Northam told top staff Friday that he is not going to resign over a racist photo as another sexual assault accusation was leveled at his lieutenant governor, who would succeed him if he stepped down.

Northam called an afternoon Cabinet meeting to announce his intention to stay, a senior official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity

Also Friday, a second woman came forward to accuse Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. The woman said in a statement that the attack took place when she and Fairfax were students at Duke University. The Associated Press is not reporting details of the allegation because it has not been corroborat­ed.

“I deny this latest unsubstant­iated allegation. It is demonstrab­ly false. I have never forced myself on anyone ever,” Fairfax said in a statement after the accusation was made public Friday.

The developmen­ts come at the end of an unpreceden­ted week in Virginia history that has seen the state’s three top Democrats embroiled in potentiall­y career-ending scandals.

The tumult began last Friday afternoon, when Northam’s medical school yearbook page surfaced with a picture of one person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Northam immediatel­y apologized for appearing in the photograph, saying he could not “undo the harm my behavior caused then and today.” Most of the Democratic establishm­ent called for his resignatio­n by the end of the day.

On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said he wasn’t in the picture. He said he wasn’t going to resign immediatel­y because he owed it to the people of Virginia to start a discussion about race and discrimina­tion and listen to the pain he had caused.

“I believe this moment can be the first small step to open a discussion about these difficult issues,” Northam said. But the governor left his long-term plans open, saying he would reassess his decision not to resign if it became clear he had no viable path forward.

The pressure on Northam reached a crescendo Saturday when almost the entire Virginia Democratic establishm­ent, as well as nearly every Democratic presidenti­al hopeful, called on him to resign. That pressure has tapered off as a cascade of scandals involving top politician­s has rocked the state.

California college professor Vanessa Tyson publicly accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a hotel in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Fairfax has cast the allegation­s as a political smear.

And Attorney General Mark Herring — in line to become governor if Northam and Fairfax resign — admitted putting on blackface in the 1980s, when he was a college student. Herring had called on Northam to resign and came forward after rumors about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulatin­g at the Capitol.

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