Ralph Northam won’t resign as Virginia governor over blackface scandal

Ralph Northam won’t resign as Virginia governor over blackface scandal

The cascading blackface and sexual assault scandals roiling Virginia politics, explained

The crisis in Virginia state politics hasn’t subsided, but Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won’t be stepping down.

Northam has been under pressure to resign after photos from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced, showing people in blackface and KKK robes. But the governor told his staff on Friday that he would not resign over the scandal, according to reports from Talking Points Memo and the Associated Press. A spokesperson confirmed to Vox that Northam is not resigning.

His stubbornness forestalls what was quickly becoming a succession crisis. If Northam would have left office, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would have succeeded him — but a college professor has accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004, an accusation that the Washington Post appeared to find credible if uncorroborated when she contacted them about it in 2017. (Fairfax says the encounter was consensual.) A second accuser went public Friday, saying that the lieutenant governor had raped her in college.

Attorney General Mark Herring — who would have been the next in the line of succession after Fairfax — had revealed on Wednesday morning that he had also appeared in blackface at a college party in the 1980s, according to the Associated Press.

Just two years ago, Virginia Democrats delivered a resounding victory that turned the state decidedly blue. Northam won the governor’s mansion and Democrats picked up a significant number of legislative wins, affirmation that the party still had a future in the Donald Trump era.

Over the last week, the era of good feelings has come crashing down, with the top three Democrats ensnared in scandals founded in the state’s racist history and the country’s current reckoning with sexual assault.

How an abortion bill and an old yearbook photo put Ralph Northam’s career in jeopardy

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