Va. Capi­tol in chaos as pres­sure mounts on gov­er­nor to re­sign


Gov. Ralph Northam of Vir­ginia, aban­doned by al­lies in the Demo­cratic Party and be­sieged by de­mands that he re­sign, met with his Cabi­net on Mon­day as state leg­is­la­tors re­turned to a Capi­tol thrown into chaos by the gov­er­nor’s in­sis­tence on stay­ing in of­fice de­spite revelations that a pho­to­graph show­ing peo­ple in black­face and Ku Klux Klan robes was dis­played on his med­i­cal school year­book page.

But even after meet­ing Sun­day night with a group of his African Amer­i­can aides, most of whom told him the only way he could clear his name would be to quit, Northam was giv­ing no in­di­ca­tion that he in­tended to step down.

As Northam dug in, his one­time al­lies in the state and na­tional Demo­cratic Party in­ten­si­fied their pleas that he quit, an­gry and em­bar­rassed at the prospect of be­ing sad­dled with a gov­er­nor sud­denly com­pro­mised by his past. While deny­ing he posed in the racist cos­tumes de­picted in his 1984 year­book — after ini­tially ac­knowl­edg­ing it — Northam ad­mit­ted Satur­day that in the same year he had used shoe polish to darken his face for aMichael Jack­son­themed cos­tume at a dance party.

Stunned state leg­is­la­tors ar­rived Mon­day for their weekly ses­sion uncertain who would be gov­er­nor by the end of the day. Swarmed by re­porters, Kirk Cox, the Re­pub­li­can speaker of the House of Del­e­gates who has called on the gov­er­nor to quit, said that he did not want to pur­sue im­peach­ment against Northam and that it was uncertain if the mat­ter met the thresh­old for im­peach­ing him.

Cox’s re­marks heart­ened Northam’s ad­vis­ers, who said Mon­day that the gov­er­nor is in­tent on re­main­ing in of­fice and at­tempt­ing to some­how prove that he was not in the pho­to­graph.

But the gov­er­nor, al­ready iso­lated from Vir­ginia’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, was fast be­com­ing a pariah out­side Rich­mond, too, after a wave of top Demo­cratic lead­ers, in­clud­ing most of the contenders for the 2020 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, called on him to re­sign.

The tur­moil en­velop­ing the state only grew when, at 2:55 a.m. Mon­day, aides to Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax, who would suc­ceed Northam were he to re­sign, is­sued an ex­tra­or­di­nary state­ment deny­ing an on­line re­port that the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor had once com­mit­ted sex­ual as­sault.

“He has never as­saulted any­one — ever — in any way, shape or form,” said two of Fair­fax’s top staff mem­bers. They were re­spond­ing to an ac­cu­sa­tion pub­lished late Sun­day that in 2004 he sex­u­ally as­saulted a woman while at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Bos­ton.

The fall­out from the revelations about Northam spread be­yond the po­lit­i­cal realm, as the gov­er­nor and Wil­liam & Mary agreed that he would not at­tend the for­mal in­au­gu­ra­tion of its pres­i­dent Fri­day.

“That be­hav­ior has no place in civil so­ci­ety — not 35 years ago, not to­day,” said Kather­ine Rowe, pres­i­dent of the univer­sity, Vir­ginia’s old­est in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing. “It has be­come clear,” she added, “that the gov­er­nor’s pres­ence would fun­da­men­tally dis­rupt the sense of cam­pus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event.”


Demon­stra­tors march near the Vir­ginia State Capi­tol in Rich­mond on Mon­day as Gov. Ralph Northam met with his Cabi­net.

Gov. Ralph Northam

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