Reston-area lawmakers are calling for Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation after a racist yearbook photo recently surfaced.
The photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook shows two people standing next to each other — one in blackface and the other person in a KKK costume.
Northam apologized on Friday (Feb. 1) for appearing in the “clearly racist and offensive” photo and the hurt it caused 35 years later, indicating that he plans to stay in office.
Then on Saturday, Northam said that he doesn’t think he is in the photo and suggested that it may have been placed on his yearbook page by mistake. He admitted to a separate incident where he darkened his skin for a costume, according to news reports.
Still, many politicians from both sides of the aisle say a resignation can help heal the pain caused by the photo and bring in a new leader who Virginians can trust — a sentiment backed by Reston and Herndon lawmakers (who are all Democrats).
State Sens. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) and Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd District) called on Northam to resign. Howell wrote the following to constituents:
The Ralph Northam I know is not a racist. The Ralph Northam I know is a decent and kind man. For the ten years I have known him, he has courageously tried to promote racial harmony in our Southern state.
However, if he is in the disgraceful, abhorrent photo, he must resign. This is a very sad time for our Commonwealth.
This horrible episode has ripped the scab off the festering wound of discrimination still in Virginia. We must all examine our consciences to see what more we can do to bring healing and reconciliation to all Virginians.
Del. Ken Plum (D-36th District) said in a tweet that he agrees with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus calling for Northam’s resignation.
With great sadness for the people of the Commonwealth I concur with the statements of the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Senate Democratic Caucus that Governor Ralph Northam must… https://t.co/YaTNC8gozK
— Ken Plum (@KenPlum1) February 2, 2019
— Jennifer Boysko (@JenniferBoysko) February 2, 2019
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), who represents Reston and Herndon, released a statement with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) on Saturday (Feb. 2) saying that “nothing we have heard since changes our view that his resignation is the only way forward for the Commonwealth.”
Connolly and Breyer said that the governor must step aside and “allow the process of healing to begin” under Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” the statement said.
Both of Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senators tweeted that they believe Northam should step down.
Despite the widespread condemnation, it remains unclear at this time whether Northam will resign or not. If he does, Fairfax would become the second African American governor in Virginia’s history.
I no longer believe Governor Northam can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia. The events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) February 3, 2019
— Rep. Bobby Scott (@BobbyScott) February 2, 2019
Photo via @GovernorVA