Virginia Governor Defies Calls for His Resignation Following Photo Controversy

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Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat of Virginia continues to face calls from both parties for his resignation, following a controversial photo that emerged on Friday.

On Friday, several national and local media outlets released images purporting to show Ralph Northam’s 1984 yearbook photo from Eastern Virginia Medical School in which his photo appears alongside an individual dawning “blackface” and another in a Ku-Klux-Klan hood.

That evening, Northam apologized saying “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.” However, Saturday afternoon Northam emphatically denied his presence in that photo, although he did admit to wearing “blackface” for an appearance as Michael Jackson in a San Antonio dance competition.

The reaction was swift, with the Virginia Republican Party demanding Northam’s resignation. Later in the weekend, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (Democrats) also demanded his resignation. The state’s first African-American Governor since reconstruction Douglas Wilder also expressed wishes for the Governor’s resignation.

Sunday evening, it was reported that Northam held a meeting with high level Democrats in the state discussing a way forward. With state government legislative sessions underway this week, Democrats are urging the Governor to step aside, so that they can avoid invoking articles of impeachment.

Should Northam resign, he would be succeeded by the state’ Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, a 39-year-old African-American lawyer from Northern Virginia, considered a rising star in statewide Democratic politics.