Political crisis in Virginia spreads to both parties

This image shows Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’’s page in his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.
Eastern Virginia Medical School via AP

And while the United Kingdom has grown somewhat accustomed to furores around Donald Trump and the Republican party, this time it is Democrat politicians in the spotlight. That leaves many state Democrats in a quandary: Should they stick to the moral high ground and seek their resignations, or protect the party's power in a vital battleground state?

At that same news conference last Saturday, he said he owed it to the people of Virginia to start a discussion about race and discrimination and listen to the pain he had caused. A candid picture taken yesterday of a Democratic senator in Virginia captured the impact of the strain.

Within the last six days, Virginia's Democratic leadership has begun collapsing on itself after three of its high-level members were caught up in scandal after scandal.

Guy Cecil, head of the major Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, was one of the earlier national Democrats to demand Northam's resignation.

Initially, he admitted he was in the photo without saying which costume he was wearing.

A day later, he denied being in the photograph at all, while admitting to wearing blackface to imitate Michael Jackson at a dance contest.

Bill Clark via Getty ImagesVirginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Herring, 57, came forward after rumours about the existence of a blackface photo of him began circulating at the Capitol. "I have to think about this, I really do", she said.

"I accept full responsibility for my conduct", he said, adding that "the shame of that moment has haunted me for decades".

But Fairfax, a fellow Democrat who would become the second black governor in the state's history and the youngest now serving governor in the country, soon faced allegations of his own: Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor at Scripps College and fellow at Stanford University, accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her when they were both attending the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, allegations he has denied.

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While almost the entire Democratic establishment rose up against Northam over the past week to demand he resign, party members did not call for immediate resignations over the two latest developments, which threaten to cause a political chain reaction that could make a GOP legislative leader the governor.

Tyson described herself as a "proud Democrat", whose only interest was to refute the "falsehoods and aspersions of my character", she wrote. Fairfax, however, had his own moment of reckoning this week, when a California professor accused him of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. "Given his false assertions, I'm compelled to make clear what happened".

In a statement Thursday, Scott said only: "Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously".

"At no time did she express to me any discomfort or concern about our interactions, neither during that encounter, nor during the months following it, when she stayed in touch with me, nor the past 15 years", he said in a statement.

Despite Democrats' professed commitment to rooting out bigotry and intolerance, Northam's party might be motivated to rally behind him to avoid the prospect of Republicans suddenly assuming the governorship.

Fairfax, who is black, and Herring, who like Northam is white, are first and second in line, respectively, to succeed Northam as governor should he resign.

The next person in line after Herring is House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican.

President Donald Trump suggested the turmoil could improve his party's chances in the state.

But all this could be wiped out by the end of the week.

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