What's Happening In Virginia?


Virginia politics has been a wild ride of scandals over the past week. You may have seen one or many controversies over the past week relating to Virginia’s top elected officials. If not, here’s a brief overview.


Warning: some may find the images connected with this controversy are extremely offensive.


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Governor Ralph Northam

It all started with a yearbook photo of Virginia’s current Governor Ralph Northam. The photo was from Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook, where he appears as either a member of the KKK or in blackface, however, he has not confirmed which. Notably, his Virginia Military Academy yearbook also lists one of his nicknames as “Coonman.” After the photo surfaced, there were numerous calls from party and elected officials on both sides of the aisle calling for Northam’s resignation. After releasing a statement that he could not confirm which person he was in the yearbook photo, he hosted a press conference. At this press conference, he stated that he was neither of the individuals in the photo, but instead distinctly remembers impersonating Michael Jackson (and appearing in blackface) at another talent competition around the same time. Northam’s office released a statement that he will not be resigning.


Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax

Just days after Northam’s controversial photos surfaced, a woman came forward alleging a sexual assault perpetrated by Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. In her statement, she details a disturbing encounter between her and Fairfax that resulted in the 2004 sexual assault. After investigation, there is significant evidence to suggest that Virginia’s Congressman in the 3rd District, Bobby Scott, knew about this prior to Fairfax’ election, but did not come forward with the information. Additionally, several days later, a second woman came forward with a statement alleging a similar encounter and subsequent sexual assault with the Lt. Governor in 2000. Both women have shown credible evidence to support their claims and are moving forward with an investigation. While Fairfax has stated that he will not step down, Del. Hope who represents Virginia’s 47th district has stated that he will be introducing articles of impeachment in the coming week.


Attorney General Mark Herring

After the Northam controversy, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement in which he admitted to also appearing in blackface while in college. With the additional layer of the other scandals, this has resulted in a turbulent week for Virginia politics. Again, many on both sides of the aisle have called for Herring’s resignation, but it does not appear that he will step down at this time.


All in all, Virginia has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. With the top three elected officials in the state mired in scandals that keep getting worse, the Virginia Democratic Party and state leadership are both currently in crisis. It is not clear what the next steps will be for Virginia, but as it stands, we may see some resignations, or perhaps impeachments in the coming weeks. The current line of succession would suggest that if Northam steps down, Fairfax will take his place as governor. If both step down, Herring would be next in line as governor. If all three step down, Speaker Kirk Cox, the Speaker of the Virginia State House will become governor. Notably, Cox is currently Speaker by an extremely slim majority which Virginia Republicans secured when a House of Delegates seat was decided by coin toss in 2018. As the story of scandal further unfolds it could mean substantial changes in Virginia leadership.