Most of those who monitor the state government happenings in Richmond and around the Old Dominion bet Gov. Ralph Northam will step down today, giving in to the multitude of calls for his resignation in the aftermath of his decision to cover his face with dark shoe polish in 1984 to participate in a Halloween dance contest as Michael Jackson.
In a press conference Saturday, Northam said he won the contest because he could do Jackson’s famous “moonwalk” move and looked like he was about to prove it when his wife put our her hand and stopped him from making things worse.
“What we have learned over the last 24 hours along with all the incidents of the last two years brings front and center the need for this nation to deal with the question of race once and for all,” says Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP. “Because we have Trump in the White House, who has created a political landscape of intolerance and racial hatred, this has exposed a wound that has been festering for a while now.”
“I have worked closely with Ralph Northam over many years. He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect,” says Virginia’s African-American Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who wrote Sunday that he is a descendant of people enslaved in Virginia. “While his career has been marked by service to children, soldiers and constituents, I cannot condone the actions from his past that, at the very least, suggest a comfort with Virginia’s darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping, and intimidation.”
Fairfax becomes governor of Virginia if Northam resigns. If that happens, he will become Virginia’s second African-American head of state. He is also one of the few Democrats who have not called for Northam’s resignation.
Northam’s controversy over an appearance in blackface is the third such incident in recent weeks. Florida’s secretary of state resigned after photos surfaced of him appearing in blackface as a Hurricane Katrinia victim on Halloween in 2005. Two students at the University walked around the campus in blackface before leaving the school and apologized.
Northam is meeting with administration staff and officials Monday morning to discuss his options. Virginia’s two Democratic Senators — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — called him Sunday and urged him to resign.
His closest circle of staff and advisors met with him Sunday while many Americans watched the Super Bowel. The word out of that meeting says Northam has not made up his mind on whether or not to stay and right or leave office.
After first admitting that he appeared in a photo showing two people — one in blackface and the other wearing a Ku Klux Klan cape and hood — Northam said a day later that he was not in the photo and had no idea how it was included on his “personal page” in the annual of his medical school, an annual he says he never purchased or saw until the controversy broke.
“It doesn’t matter whether he was in the photo or not in the photo at this point,” said former Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “We have to close that chapter.”