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Virginia's top three officials are embroiled in scandal — two over blackface

If they resign, a GOP leader who ascended by random drawing would become governor

by Rex Santus
Feb 6 2019, 5:55pm

Virginia’s executive branch is in a state of crisis. The top three officials in the line of succession — all Democrats — are now embroiled in possibly career-ending controversies, two of them involving blackface.

If all three resign, the fourth person in the line of succession is Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox, who has called for the governor to resign over his blackface controversy, which started Friday. Cox is speaker by a one-seat GOP majority. The GOP won that single seat after a tied vote called for a random drawing under Virginia law. Cox’s ascension would be a huge blow to a blue wave that swept the Virginia House in the midterms. If that happens, the House could, however, fill Cox’s vacant seat with a Democrat, which would split the House 50-50 between both parties.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has been dealing with his blackface scandal for days already. But in a statement on Wednesday, Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, also a Democrat, admitted that he wore blackface at a college party.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” Herring said in a statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring reportedly held an urgent meeting with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday morning to discuss his photo.

Herring’s admission comes 5 days after a photo surfaced of Northam’s college yearbook page, which showed an unidentified person in blackface standing next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. Northam has denied that he is either of the people in the photo. Prominent Democrats — including former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — have called for Northam to resign.

To add to the mess, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax, is facing an accusation of sexual assault in a hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which he denies.

"This was 14 years ago ... this was not only from left field, it was from planet Mars, because it didn't happen in the way it was described," Fairfax said Monday.

"The current situation and so it’s all completely political, a complete smear,” he added later.

Cover:

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 4: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring speaks during the Virginia Democrats' campaign rally at the Prince William County fairgrounds in Manassas, Va., on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)