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story.lead_photo.caption Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam talks during an interview at the Governor's Mansion, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 in Richmond, Va. The embattled governor says he wants to spend the remaining three years of his term pursuing racial "equity." Northam told The Washington Post that there is a higher reason for the "horrific" reckoning over a racist photograph that appeared in his medical school yearbook. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. — Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam considered resigning amid a scandal that he once wore blackface, but the pediatric neurologist said Sunday 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 a second person wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe.

Northam initially said he had appeared in the photo — although he didn't say which costume he was wearing — and apologized. The next day, however, he denied being in the photo, while acknowledging that he had worn 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."

Northam's political turmoil comes as the two other top Democrats in the state face their own scandals, with allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — Northam's successor if the governor were to resign — and Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledging that he wore blackface at a party in 1980. Herring would become governor if both Northam and Fairfax resigned.

The scandals have become a full-blown crisis for Virginia Democrats. Although the party has taken an almost zero-tolerance approach to misconduct among its members in this #MeToo era, if all three Democrats resigned, Republican state House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

The scandals also could hurt the Democrats' chances of flipping control of the General Assembly. All 140 legislative seats will be up for grabs in November, and Democrats had previously been hopeful that voter antipathy toward President Donald Trump would help them cement Virginia's status as a blue state.

Now, many fret their crisis in leadership will not only cost them chances of winning GOP-held seats, but also several seats held by Democrats.

Two women allege Fairfax sexually assaulted them, and both have offered to testify if an impeachment hearing were called against him. The lieutenant governor issued a statement Saturday again denying he ever sexually assaulted anyone and making clear he does not intend to immediately step down. Instead, he urged authorities to investigate the allegations against him.

Herring has apologized for appearing in blackface but has not indicated he would resign either, despite his initially forceful call for Northam to step down. The admission came after rumors began circulating at the Capitol.

Asked Sunday for his opinion on his subordinates, Northam said in the CBS interview that it's up to Fairfax and Herring to decide whether they want to remain in office. He said he supports Fairfax's call for an investigation into the sexual assault allegations. Of Herring, he said that "just like me, he has grown."

Democratic lawmaker Patrick Hope said he wants to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax on Monday, but Hope is not a powerful figure in the House and there's little sign there's a broad appetite for impeachment with lawmakers set to finish this year's legislative session by the end of the month.

If a hearing did occur, attorneys for both of Fairfax's accusers — Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson — say they would be willing to testify. The Associated Press does not generally name those who say they are victims of sexual assault, but both women have come forward voluntarily.

Watson alleges that Fairfax raped her while they were students at Duke University in 2000, her attorney said in a statement. Tyson, a California college professor, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him at a Boston hotel in 2004.

While denying the allegations, Fairfax called on authorities, including the FBI, to conduct a full investigation.

It was not clear on what basis the FBI would investigate. The agency has jurisdiction over federal crimes, but sexual assault allegations like the ones Fairfax is facing are traditionally regarded as state offenses handled by local police and prosecutors.

"Frankly, we really want any entity with comprehensive investigative power to thoroughly look into these accusations," Fairfax spokeswoman Lauren Burke said. "There needs to be verification of basic facts about these allegations. It feels like something bigger is going on here."

Northam's pledge Sunday to work on healing the state's racial divide was the second he made in as many days.

In his first interview since the scandal, a chastened governor told The Washington Post on Saturday that the uproar has pushed him to confront the state's deep and lingering divisions over race, as well as his own insensitivity. But he said such reflection has convinced him that, by remaining in office, he can work to resolve them.


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  • PopMom
    February 10, 2019 at 8:15 p.m.

    58% of black Virginians want him to stay put. Those who want him to leave are white Republicans. He has changed in 35 years.

  • Skeptic1
    February 10, 2019 at 8:54 p.m.

    The Democrats are naked. They want the black Lt. Governor gone now but the two white guys in black face get a pass. Racism is and was the foundation of that party, they formed to preserve slavery, founded the KKK, instituted Jim Crow, and fought against the Civil Rights Act. After Clinton they discovered Orwellian Double-Speak whereby they accuse their opposition of racism to deflect their own. Hey Popmom, I hear you have a law degree where from?

  • limb
    February 10, 2019 at 9:26 p.m.

    Last post was a very poor analysis of Virginia’s problem whatever your party.