The blackface and alleged sex assault scandals engulfing Virginia’s top Democrats could open the door for a Republican to become governor.
On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he too wore blackface. Meanwhile, the governor, who also admitted that he has worn blackface in the past, is under pressure to resign.
The second in line for the governorship, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is defending himself from a sexual assault allegation. Herring stands behind Fairfax as next in line for the governorship.
If the three Democrats step down from office, the speaker of the House of Delegates, Republican Kirk Cox, is next in line to become governor.
Herring issued this confession on Wednesday: “In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song. It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”
Cox, a former high school teacher and coach, spent nearly 30 years climbing his way to the top of Virginia politics, according to The Washington Post. During that time, he mastered the details of crafting state budgets and “shepherding conservative bills into law.”
The 61-year-old lawmaker was elected House of Delegates Speaker on January 10, 2019. In the 2018 midterm elections, his party retained control of the legislative chamber by a slim margin of 51 to 49 seats that included winning a rare lottery to decide one tie. Anti-Trump sentiments in key electoral districts came close to helping Democrats take over.
If Cox cannot serve as governor, Virginia’s constitution says the House of Delegates–which is currently controlled by the GOP– “shall convene and fill the vacancy.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is reportedly weighing his options after defying an avalanche of calls for him to resign. On Friday, Northam apologized for appearing in a photograph of a person dressed in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan robe from his 1984 medical school yearbook. One day later, at a bizarre press conference, the governor denied that he was one of those people in the picture but admitted to applying black shoe polish to his face for a Michael Jackson dance competition.
Fairfax, an African-American, has denied a claim that he sexually assaulted a woman at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.