Prominent Democrats Call Virginia's Governor to Resign following Discovery of Racist Photo

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to address a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond on Thursday Jan. 31 2019

Now that same quality may be contributing to what is looking more and more like a spectacular career-ending disaster.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam cleared up the controversy surrounding a blackface photo he was believed to be in that appeared in his 1984 yearbook. He initially apologized for the photo, saying it was him, without specifying which person he was. Then on Saturday, he took it back, telling reporters that he is now certain that wasn't him in the photo.

He did however voluntarily discuss an instance in the same time period in which, he said, he wore shoe polish on his face while winning a dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, dressed as Michael Jackson.

But even after he professed his innocence at a press conference, the pressure continued to grow, with senior Democrats across Virginia calling on him to step down.

Northam is in an nearly unsustainable position with three years left in his term. Northam is well-liked by Republicans and Democrats alike, and had compiled a glittering list of accomplishments in his first year in office, but sentiment around the General Assembly was nearly universal that he should step down.

Fairfax said he was "shocked and saddened" by the yearbook photograph and that Northam had apologized to him personally. "I would say that this is just heartbreaking". In another sign Monday of the challenges he could face if he tries to stay in office, Katherine Rowe, president of the College of William & Mary, canceled an appearance by Northam at an event this Friday because his presence would "fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to".

Many prominent politicians have called for his resignation.

Terry McAuliffe (D), former governor of Virginia said, "Once that picture with the blackface and klansman came out there is no way you can continue to be the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia". He also volunteered as medical director of a children's hospice, caring for dying youngsters and their families.

Both of Virginia's US senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, joined the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation, Rep. Bobby Scott, in saying they no longer believe Northam can serve effectively. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner urged him to resign.

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Northam won a tight gubernatorial race in 2017 over Republican contender Ed Gillespie, who he accused of racism and bigotry for supporting Trump's immigration reform agenda. "I think the constitutional provisions are very specific on the succession of office".

However, Northam backtracked, claiming at a news conference Saturday that he was not either of the individuals pictured. Northam scored what would normally be two legacy-making victories: expanding Medicaid and landing a new Amazon headquarters with 25,000 new jobs.

Asked by a reporter if he could still do Jackson's famous moonwalk, Northam looked at the floor as if thinking about demonstrating it.

"Ralph will do the right thing for the Commonwealth of Virginia", McAuliffe said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union".

"All of his weaknesses on display yesterday were essentially his strengths the day before yesterday", Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University.

Those weighing in over the weekend included the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said that Northam "still does not understand the seriousness of his actions".

In a radio interview, the governor described a hypothetical situation in which an infant who is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth is left to die.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats, released statements on Saturday calling for Northam to resign.

In Norfolk, Melissa Brooks was adamant that Northam should resign. "We have to move Virginia forward". He has lost the support of virtually all of the state's Democratic establishment.

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