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By BWST Staff
RICHMOND, Va. – Ralph Northam won the Virginia Governor’s mansion after a brutal campaign steeped in racism and bigotry from opponents on the other side of the aisle.
The Governor campaigned as a soft-spoken, kind hearted, open minded doctor and military veteran who promised to stand up for all Virginians.
That image, however was irreparably shattered Friday when stunning photos were released from Governor Northam’s medical school yearbook depicting two men in racist costume: one in Black face and one in KKK garb.
By Friday evening, the governor addressed the Commonwealth, confirming that he did in fact appear in the photo, but would not confirm which of the two racist costumes he was wearing in the photo.
In his recorded statement, Governor Northam told Virginians that the “racist” photograph “did not represent his work” as a doctor, soldier or political leader.
“I am deeply sorry, I cannot change the decisions I made or undo the harm by behavior caused then and today,” Northam went on, “but I accept responsibility for my past actions and am ready to do the hard work of regaining your trust.”
In spite of the Governor’s address, calls mounted from both Democrats and Republicans in and beyond Virginia for him to resign. Terry McAuliffe, the state’s former governor and like prospective presidential candidate for 2020, called Northam a “friend” who “served well as Lt. Governor and Governor”, but said that the situation “he put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable.”
“It’s time for Ralph to step down,” McAuliffe said.
Even Virginia legislators who supported Northam when the news first broke have since recanted and called for him to step down.
Virginia’s Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Richard Saslaw, who backed Northam Friday, told the Washington Post on Saturday that the Governor should resign. “What we saw yesterday opened wounds that are not going to heal quickly. The only way to begin that healing process is if he tenders his resignation immediately,” Saslaw said.
Northam went to Eastern Virginia Medical School in the 1980s. The school, located in Norfolk, Virginia, sits in the epicenter of slavery, lynchings and the former Confederacy. Racist and Klan roots run deep in the fields and marshlands throughout the Southeastern part of the state.
On Saturday morning, the Governor stunningly reversed course, saying that he now no longer believed he was one of the men in the photo and refused calls to resign.
His recanting has not slowed calls from state and national leaders, including the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, for the Democratic Governor to step down.
Should Northam resign, or be forced out of office, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax would take the helm as Governor of Virginia.
At just 39, Fairfax would be one of the youngest governor’s in Virginia’s modern history.
Fairfax is seen as a rising star in Virginia and around the nation. He is only the second Black official elected statewide since Reconstruction and helps to lead a state where his ancestors were once enslaved.
Even though Virginia governors are not eligible to run for re-election after their first term, if Northam were to resign and Fairfax were sworn in, he would be eligible to serve the remaining two years of Northam’s term and run for his own full term as governor in 2021.
The visceral pain racism inflicts on our country each day knows no political party.
It’s time for Governor Northam to resign. This photo may not be a reflection of his heart and character today, but its wounds are too deep not to render serious consequences.
Governor Northam has scheduled a public statement to the media Saturday afternoon at 2:30PM EST.