A group of Black lawmakers in Virginia will play a key role in responding to the state Democratic Party’s growing crisis.
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) was expected to craft a statement that will serve as a guide for the party to follow, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
The state’s top Democratic leaders are engulfed in blackface and alleged sex assault scandals that could open the door for a Republican to become governor. On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he wore blackface back in the 1980s. That came on the heels of Gov. Ralph Northam admitting on Saturday that he once applied black shoe polish to his face for a Michael Jackson dance competition. They are both under pressure to resign.
Members of the VLBC met Wednesday morning in Herring’s office and ignored reporters when asked if they still support the attorney general.
“This is freakin screwed up!” State Sen. L. Louise Lucas, one of the caucus members, texted while in the meeting, according to the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the second in line for the governorship, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, an African-American, was defending himself against a sexual assault allegation.
“The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus takes all allegations of sexual assault or misconduct with the utmost seriousness. Given the recent allegations regarding Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, the VLBC will continue to assess this developing situation as more details become available,” an initial statement on VLBC’s Facebook page said on Monday before Fairfax’s accuser, Vanessa Tyson, came forward.
The Black lawmakers were quick in demanding Northam’s resignation. But the group has been largely silent since Tyson released a statement Wednesday with graphic details of their sexual encounter.
This came against the backdrop of Republicans, including President Donald Trump calling out the Democrats. “If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken,” Trump unconvincingly tweeted.
VLBC’s chairman, Del. Lamont Bagby, has said that his caucus needs time to look carefully at the rapid-fire revelations that have come out just over the past six days.
He leads the 21-member caucus whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the state’s African-American population and other underserved groups. Bagby was elected chairman in 2017 to head what is now the largest ever membership for the all-Democratic group.
They began the legislative year in January announcing a legislative policy agenda that they said would improve the lives of underprivileged Virginians. It addresses education, civil rights, voting rights and criminal justice reforms. Fairfax appeared with caucus members at a press conference at which he highlighted the group’s 2018 achievements.
No doubt, the caucus’ relationship with Fairfax makes this situation challenging. At the same time, they cannot appear to dismiss the allegations against him.