Northam continues to resist calls for resignation

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Feb 06, 2019 - 03:01 PM

Photo: Gov. Ralph Northam, shown in a campaign stop in Mathews prior to his 2017 election.

Gov. Ralph Northam, shown in a campaign stop in Mathews prior to his 2017 election.

With growing bipartisan pressure for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign following images that appeared in his 1984 medical college yearbook, local leaders of both Democratic and Republican parties are following suit, saying it would be best for the commonwealth that he step down sooner than later.

The image in question appears under Northam’s Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook page, showing a man in blackface standing next to another individual dressed in the hooded robes of a Klansman.

On Friday, Northam issued a statement apologizing for his past behavior saying in part, “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now.”

Then, during a press conference on Saturday, Northam said he had had an opportunity to review the photos and speak with several former EVMS classmates, and reached the conclusion that he was neither of the two individuals that appeared in the photo in question. He did admit to dressing with some black paint under his eyes as part of a Michael Jackson costume he wore to a dance contest while in San Antonio, Texas, near the time the yearbook was published.

The yearbook photo came to light days after Northam was challenged by members of both parties for his stance on late-term abortions.

“Governor Northam has served the commonwealth, our nation, and his community with distinction,” said Dianne Carter de Mayo, chair of the Gloucester Democratic Committee. “Medicaid expansion has meant four hundred thousand more Virginians than before have access to health care. But, after the events of this weekend, it is clear he can no longer govern effectively and that is why the Democratic Party of Virginia and every elected Democrat in a leadership position have said it is time to resign.”

“Two very serious issues have surfaced which create grave concerns regarding Governor Northam’s ability to lead the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Pat Dunnington, chair of the Gloucester County Republican Party. She said his comments on very late-term abortion, even to the point where a baby is delivered, support the practice of killing newborn infants. 

“Virginians, and all Americans, know that it is double murder if someone kills a pregnant woman, so why is driving the legislative standard to kill a baby during or right after birth permissible,” Dunnington asked. “As a civilized society, can we really have it both ways? Have we just crossed the line to legal murder?”

She said it is the responsibility of citizens to reject leadership that push infanticide and also who exhibits the hatred and divide personified in a medical college yearbook in the 1980s. “That pictorial view of the hatred for African Americans … was just as appalling then as it is now.”

Finally, Dunnington asked, “How is it possible for Northam to work for every citizen in Virginia when he expresses interest in terminating infant life while putting on display his animosity for our African American neighbors?”

Bud Ward, chair of the Mathews Democratic Committee, said he is reluctant to make a comment on behalf of that group until he has an opportunity to meet with other committee members. “I hope we will discuss it at our next meeting and find a way forward,” Ward said.

“I am equally concerned about Justin Fairfax,” Ward added. Fairfax, who is Lieutenant Governor, is facing an allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman in 2004. Fairfax issued a statement on Monday, saying, in part, “Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect. He has never assaulted anyone—ever—in any way shape, or form.”

Several attempts were made to contact Fulton Wood Jr., chair of the Mathews Republican Committee. However, Wood had not contacted the Gazette-Journal prior to press time. 

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) also weighed in on the photo that surfaced. “His actions are disturbing, reprehensible and go against the American values that we fight to uphold,” Wittman said in part. “We need a leader who is moving us forward, not backward,” and added that he is concerned with the impact this situation is having on the commonwealth.

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine issued a joint statement shortly after Northam’s press conference on Saturday. “After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign.”

The statement went on to read, “Governor Northam has served the people of the commonwealth faithfully for many years, but 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.”

A pediatric neurologist and Eastern Shore native, Northam began his political career in the Senate of Virginia, serving from 2008 to 2013 in the 6th District, which includes Mathews County.