Virginia lawmakers on Monday will reluctantly face the unprecedented prospect of impeaching the state’s second most powerful leader as they struggle to address revelations of past racist behavior and allegations of sexual assault roiling its highest levels of office.
At least one lawmaker said he will try to pursue impeachment of Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax after two women accused Fairfax of sexual assault in the 2000s, a move that experts believe would be a first in Virginia. Fairfax has vehemently denied the claims and called for authorities, including the FBI, to investigate.
There’s little sign of broad appetite for impeachment, with lawmakers set to finish this year’s session by the month’s end. But the Legislature is swirling with questions about lines of succession and the political fallout for Democrats should the governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general leave office, willingly or not.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, are embroiled in their own scandal after acknowledging they wore blackface in the 1980s . Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said Sunday that he considered resigning but that he’s “not going anywhere” because the state “needs someone that can heal” it.
Northam said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that it’s been a difficult week since a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced, showing a person wearing blackface next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. Northam initially said he was in the photo, then denied it the next day, while acknowledging that he did wear blackface to a dance party that same year.
“Virginia needs someone that can heal. There’s no better person to do that than a doctor,” Northam said. “Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that’s why I’m not going anywhere.”