Ralph Northam Is Still Governor Of Virginia, And He’s Likely To Remain There

Twenty days after we learned about racist yearbook photos and everything that followed from it, there's been no action against any of Virginia's top political leaders. Don't expect to see it either.

It has been twenty days since the discovery of the yearbook page of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam from his final year at the Eastern Virginia Medical School from 1984  which includes, along with pictures of Northam and others, a picture that depicts one person in blackface and another person wearing Ku Klux Klan garb. In his initial response to the news, Governor Northam apologized for the photograph and appeared to admit that he was one of the two people depicted in that photograph, although he did not say which one. This led a plethora of statewide and national Democrats to call for his resignation, something which at least initially seemed as though it would happen. Within twenty-four hours after the release of the report, though, Northam held a press conference in which he denied being either of the people in the photo although he did admit to having once darkened his skin in connection with a Michael Jackson impersonation he performed in San Antonio later in 1984. This flip-flop and the general weirdness of that Saturday press conference did not satisfy critics and led more of the Commonwealth’s top Democrats to call on him to step aside, a move that he has so far not taken.

In the week since all that transpired, Virginia politics has been thrown into further chaos thanks to, among other things, charges of sexual assault against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, who would succeed Northam were he to resign and the admission by Attorney General Mark Herring that he too had donned blackface when he was 19 as part of an impersonation of 80s rapper Kurtis Blow. Later in the week, the dumpster fire in Richmond took on a bipartisan tone when Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment admitted that he had been the editor of the yearbook at the Virginia Military Institute when several photographs of students in blackface were published in 1968, just months before the institution admitted its first African-American student. All of this has created a sense of chaos in Richmond even as legislators are rushing to complete the legislative session, including the passage of a budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year.

While the accusations from each of the three men have been accompanied by calls for resignation by Virginia and national Democrats, so far they all remain in office and there are few signs that they’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. Part of the reason for that appears to be the fact that, as Andrew Kragie notes in The Atlantic, many of the Democrats who were quick to call on Northam and Fairfax, and to some lesser extent Herring, have quieted their calls for resignation or impeachment of any of the officials. At least part of the reason for that appears to be the fact that public opinion in Virginia is not pressing for any of these men to step down, or is all that eager for impeachment proceedings against any of them. For example, Washington Post poll showed Virginia voters were evenly split on whether or not Governor Northam should resign, and also showed that larger numbers of voters believed that Lt. Governor Fairfax and Attorney General Herring should not step aside. These results are generally the same in two new polls released yesterday. Given this, there’s little incentive for politicians on either side of the aisle to act.

An additional factor that plays into the dynamics in Richmond right now is the fact that the state legislature is scheduled to go out of session on Saturday and currently principally wrapped up in getting a budget passed for the next Fiscal Year. This means that there’s very little time left for legislators to act, and very little chance that there will be an agreement to extend the session to deal with the potential mess of impeachment of any one of the top state leaders. This is especially true given the fact that the allegations against each of these men do not appear to meet the grounds for Impeachment set forth in Article IV, Section 17 of the Virginia Constitution. Taking all of that into account, the fact that there hasn’t been any action against Northam, Fairfax, or Herring, the last of whom seems the least likely to be in any real trouble here, isn’t surprising at all. There’s no real public desire for it, and very little political desire on behalf of either Republicans or Democrats.

In any case, as I’ve alluded to before, the question of impeachment is out of the hands of Virginia Democrats. By a very narrow margin, Republicans control the House of Delegates and it would be up to them to open and proceed with impeachment proceedings. So far, there’s no sign that the GOP is at all inclined to take any action at all against Northam and, from a political point of view, there are plenty of reasons for them to leave him in power as long as possible. As I’ve noted before, Virginia’s midterm elections take place in November of this year. At that time the entire House of Delegates and the State Senate will both be up for grabs. From the Republican point of view, there’s at least some advantage to heading into those elections with the top three Democrats in the state under ethical and, in the case of Lt. Governor Fairfax, potentially criminal, clouds. At the margins, that may just be enough to preserve their majorities in the House of Delegates and the Senate and to keep Democrats on the defensive heading into the inevitable shift to the races that will take place in 2021 when all three offices, Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General, will all be up for election. No matter how much they may want Northam out of the way before then, there’s little that Virginia Democrats can do about that.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Karen George BSRNC says:

    Feel FREE to see the entire FAX sent Northam and Herring who are a PARTY TO MURDERING A VIRGINIA RN, a grandmother of mixed grandkids with a LIFETIME MEDICAL AWARD for 15 years every Governor and AG obeyed COURT ORDERS NOT MR KKK
    PAGE FOUR February 12th, 2019 CRIMINAL CHARGES

    ID NUMBERS: RECORD #0225-16-2 (Affirmed GEORGE May 10, 2016 against EMPLOYER) JCN1943426 ( Affirmed GEORGE)

    Dr./Governor Northam, Dr. F. Tennant, President D. Trump, Chief Commissioner VWCC, Honorable Court of Appeals, EMPLOYER, AG OFFICE

    Potential Questioning Under Oath in Court

    1. “For the record please state your name, and occupation.”
    2. “Mr. Northam as a pediatric neurologist who has worked as a Director of a Children’s Hospice pro bono, are you aware of the drug Fentanyl used in lollipop version for dying children?
    3. “This drug is 100 times the strength of morphine, or heroin?”
    4. “Reviewing the medical records of Ms. George with a notation from Dr. F. Tennant her Court Ordered Medication Consultant from 2010, ‘interruption in her medication supply will result in death’, and that Dr. Tennant was at the time of death of Dr. Hochman, the leading pain specialist in the U.S. and that due to the complexity of this work injury, Ms. George was medically referred to Dr. Tennant?”
    5. “In 2015 as Lt. Governor (and still licensed as a physician) you are aware that Governor McAuliffe was involved when Ms. George was suddenly stopped with Dr. Tennant in California? It was the week that McAuliffe sent the ex FBI Director almost a million dollars so that his wife, a pediatrician have campaign contributions from Virginia to run for Assembly in her district?
    6. “In your opinion would Ms. George stopping TWO HUNDRED DURAGESIC brand patches every 30 days in the strength of 100 mcg/hour and 75 mcg/hour result in her death? Yes or No please.
    7. “For the record D. C. Bruner’s OPINION (2012) is presented. It is noted that Scott Fitzgerald, and Kitty Hughes were involved in this period of litigation over the referral to Dr. Tennant in California, and that both were aware that ‘interruption of her medical supply would result in death.’ Further, during this period not only were medications continued during litigation but care with Dr. Tennant face to face at Ms. George’s expense (for travel).”
    8. “Mr. Northam please review the letter from then Governor McAuliffe to Ms. George about not interfering in WC cases when during litigation. For the record, the Commonwealth sued Ms. George in Court of Appeals and she has WON or they AFFIRMED for her on May 10th, 2016. Therefore, you would agree that any Governor in the Commonwealth could have acted to prevent further harm to Ms. George by RESTORING her LAWFUL MEDICAL CARE?”
    9. “Mr. Northam you were contacted by Ms. George, as was Senator Mark Warner about the serious and life threatening nature of this medical plan of care being interrupted. Why did you not respond or call her, our records show she contacted you as early as 2016?”
    10. “Mr. Northam you sent Ms. George’s file to the Executive Director of VWCC did you not? Since this is the case you were aware of this life and death situation as early as 2015 when care was stopped, and in 2016?”
    11. “Mr. Northam please review the FINAL ORDERS and letters from the Virginia Court of Appeals stating that VWCC (lower Court) was to enforce these Orders. Why did you a physician not ensure this was done immediately? Ms. George is in critical condition and has cancer due to the separation from Dr. Tennant in 2015, and then subsequent return for three
    PAGE FIVE February 12th, 2019 CRIMINAL CHARGES

    ID NUMBERS: RECORD #0225-16-2 (Affirmed GEORGE May 10, 2016 against EMPLOYER) JCN1943426 ( Affirmed GEORGE)

    Dr./Governor Northam, Dr. F. Tennant, President D. Trump, Chief Commissioner VWCC, Honorable Court of Appeals, EMPLOYER, AG OFFICE

    months in 2016, (post FINAL ORDERS), with immediate cessation of care. You will agree this is intentional? In short, YOU were aware that her life and death plan of care stopped in 2015 and again in 2016 and that death would occur. Yes or No?”
    12. “Mr. Northam you are aware that Ms. George is a graduate of Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing, and was working at MCVH (now Virginia Health Systems) with an entrance to the Executive MSHA program the following semester of this catastrophic work injury? Are you aware that Ms. George is also a published scholarly researcher and her research has been used by Attorney’s in tort trial cases. Are you also aware that she has grandchildren of mixed culture or black American heritage? Yes or No?”

    fb https://www.facebook.com/KarenHallenbeckSikorskyGeorge

  2. James Pearce says:

    Part of the reason for that appears to be the fact that, as Andrew Kragie notes in The Atlantic, many of the Democrats who were quick to call on Northam and Fairfax, and to some lesser extent Herring, have quieted their calls for resignation or impeachment of any of the officials.

    This is a deadly acknowledgement that the Dems in VA are just not up to the task before them. Why the initial haste? Because they’re superficial and ill-prepared. Why the reluctance now? Because their initial haste was leading them to error.

  3. Gustopher says:

    @Karen George BSRNC:

    Feel FREE to see the entire FAX sent Northam and Herring who are a PARTY TO MURDERING A VIRGINIA RN

    TL;DR.

    Who faxes things anymore?