Democrats to look hard for can­di­dates with clean pasts

Party stung by Vir­ginia scan­dals

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

When Sen. Tim Kaine was vet­ted in 2016 to be Hil­lary Clin­ton’s run­ning mate, the Vir­ginia Demo­crat was prod­ded about ev­ery­thing from his fi­nan­cial deal­ings to the health of his ticker.

But Mr. Kaine wasn’t specif­i­cally asked whether he ever gal­li­vanted around in black­face.

“I was asked vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing you might imag­ine, but I was not asked that,” Mr. Kaine told The Wash­ing­ton Times on Thurs­day. “I have been asked that in the last few days, and the an­swer is ‘no.’”

Ex­pect that to change as the party looks for can­di­dates for 2020 and be­yond and tries to avoid a re­peat of the mess in Vir­ginia, where the top three elected lead­ers — all Democrats — have been stung by racist and rape al­le­ga­tions.

Bret Niles, chair­man of the Linn County Iowa Democrats, said he wouldn’t be sur­prised if can­di­dates vis­it­ing the early pri­mary states don’t get asked to weigh in.

As for the can­di­dates them­selves, he said he hoped they would be forth­com­ing on their own and wouldn’t need a scan­dal to make them ad­mit to any po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing short­com­ings.

“I think there are a lot peo­ple want­ing to make sure we have a pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee with a clean slate, or noth­ing in their clos­ets, that would im­pact the cam­paign or their term in of­fice,” he said. “How­ever, it’s hard to en­vi­sion any of the cur­rent can­di­dates with any­thing sim­i­lar to what all came out on Trump, even dur­ing the cam­paign.”

Vir­ginia Democrats may have felt the same about their gov­er­nor, lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral, the first two elected and the lat­ter re-elected in a sweep of the state’s top of­fices in 2017.

Gov. Ralph Northam has had to an­swer for a photo of some­one in black­face and an­other in a Ku Klux Klan cos­tume that ap­peared on his 1984 med­i­cal school year­book page. He de­nied he was in the photo but ad­mit­ted to dark­en­ing his face at a dif­fer­ent time to ap­pear black for a dance con­test.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax, who would take over should Mr. Northam re­sign, was then pub­licly ac­cused of rap­ing a woman when they were both at­tend­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Bos­ton in 2004.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring, who had called on Mr. Northam to re­sign af­ter the black­face photo emerged, ad­mit­ted this week to his own black­face in­ci­dent in 1980.

The chaos has gar­nered around-the­clock ca­ble news cov­er­age and has spilled over to Capi­tol Hill, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, main­tained Thurs­day that it doesn’t taint the party’s prospects at the na­tional level.

“No, it does not,” Mrs. Pelosi told re­porters.

She said Vir­ginia “will re­solve” its own is­sues and that it was “sad” that the party was suf­fer­ing be­cause it had “some very ta­lented lead­ers.” She did not say who she meant.

But Democrats said they do ex­pect 2020 can­di­dates will be asked to weigh in.

Many in the field have called for Mr. Northam to step down.

Sen. Ka­mala D. Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia and Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York on Thurs­day be­came the first ma­jor con­tenders in the field to say Mr. Fair­fax’s ac­cuser is cred­i­ble and to call for her al­le­ga­tions against the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor to be in­ves­ti­gated.

Mr. Niles said he wouldn’t be sur­prised if Ms. Har­ris or Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey is asked about the mess in Vir­ginia when they travel to Iowa this week­end.

He said Democrats still feel burned by John Edwards, who per­suaded vot­ers dur­ing his 2008 pres­i­den­tial bid not to be­lieve re­ports from the Na­tional En­quirer that he had a love child with a mis­tress. The re­ports proved to be true.

Kath­leen Sul­li­van, a mem­ber of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee from New Hamp­shire, said the stakes in 2020 are so high that it is in­cum­bent upon Democrats to do ev­ery­thing in their power to put for­ward a scan­dal-free pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee.

“I do think that Demo­cratic vot­ers will be more at­tuned to is­sues of race, gen­der, ha­rass­ment, but not just be­cause of Vir­ginia, but also be­cause of Don­ald Trump, [Steve]

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Vir­ginia Demo­crat who was Hil­lary Clin­ton’s vice pres­i­den­tial run­ning mate, said he was vet­ted with mul­ti­ple ques­tions, but was never asked whether he ever ap­peared in black­face. That ques­tion likely to be asked of other can­di­dates.

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