(Richmond, Va.) (AP) — Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam considered resigning amid a scandal that he once wore blackface, but the pediatric neurologist said Sunday that he’s “not going anywhere” because the state “needs someone that can heal” it.
Northam said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it’s been a difficult week since a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced, showing a person wearing blackface next to a second person wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.
Northam initially said he had appeared in the photo — although he didn’t say which costume he was wearing — and apologized. The next day, however, he denied being in the photo, while acknowledging that he had worn blackface to a dance party that same year.
“Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Northam said. “Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”
Northam’s political turmoil comes as the two other top Democrats in the state face their own potentially career-ending scandals, with allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — Northam’s successor if the governor were to resign — and Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledging that he wore blackface at a party in 1980. Herring would become governor if both Northam and Fairfax resigned.
The scandals have become a full-blown crisis for Virginia Democrats. Although the party has taken an almost zero-tolerance approach to misconduct among its members in this #MeToo era, a housecleaning in Virginia could be costly: If all three Democrats resigned, Republican state House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.