Capitol chaos blowing over?
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 2/15/2019, 6 a.m.
The storm over the State Capitol appears to be easing up — for now.
Whatever the future fallout, none of Virginia’s top three officials is leaving office. Calls for impeachment have been silenced and the General Assembly is back to being fully engaged in developing legislation.
Indeed, the emergence of a second woman accusing Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of sexual assault nearly 20 years ago has begun to overshadow the blackface incidents from the 1980s involving Gov. Ralph S. Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring.
Lt. Gov. Fairfax has stoutly denied any wrongdoing, describing the allegations as false and calling for a complete independent investigation.
The 39-year-old lieutenant governor has been hit hardest. Once a gubernatorial prospect, his fundraising is shut down, most of the staff of his political action committee and his small public office have quit. He has been removed from the chairmanship of the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association and put on a leave of absence from the Washington law firm where he is a partner.
Gov. Northam, who initially took the heat, has set the tone for his fellow Democratic top office holders by refusing to step down from office. Mr. Herring has received the least attention after apologizing last week for wearing blackface to portray rapper Kurtis Blow at a party in 1980 while a student at the University of Virginia.
Surprising critics with his fortitude and resolve, Gov. Northam quickly rejected the bipartisan clamor to leave office that began resounding after a conservative political blog on Feb. 1 released a 1984 photo appearing on Gov. Northam’s medical school yearbook page that showed two people, one in blackface and one in a KKK robe and hood.
The governor is making his stance stick as his cabinet, aides and state employees stay with him.
In an interview Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Gov. Northam showed he has not buckled under the criticism and will serve out his term that ends in January 2022.
He acknowledged having a rough time since the photo went viral, particularly after he first apologized and then went before a bank of national, state and local reporters to deny that he was neither of the people in the photo. But he admitted at the Feb. 2 news conference that he wore blackface as Michael Jackson in a 1984 dance competition in San Antonio, Texas, where he had gone to serve in the Army Medical Corps.
The governor, though, insisted on the Sunday morning news program that he is the right person at this time.
“Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Gov. Northam said. “Virginia 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.”
His cabinet and his staff have stuck with him, and there are growing signs publicly and privately that a majority of people, particularly in the African-American community, back his decision to stay.