(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County are loaning a combined $13,700,000 to a Virginia Square affordable housing project focusing on veterans.
Officials announced yesterday (Tuesday) evening that the Virginia Housing Trust Fund will loan $700,000 and Arlington County will loan the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) $13,000,000 to build a seven-story, 160-unit building on the site of the American Legion Post 139 (3445 Washington Blvd).
“We want to make sure Virginia is the most veteran-friendly state in this great country of ours,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a speech outside the aging Legion building, which will be torn down and replaced by the new development.
Half the units will have a “veteran-preference in perpetuity,” APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul told ARLnow Tuesday.
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a speech he was “really thrilled” the county could be a part of the effort to help veterans.
“This is an opportunity for us to actually, truly thank them for their service by providing a very key need. That is, long-term housing,” Dorsey said.
Board member Katie Cristol told ARLnow that it was a “terrific project” and a “model” for Legion posts statewide. She added that it was inherently difficult to bring together all of the disparate parties on these kinds of projects, but the process could be easier if state legislators invested more in the affordable housing fund.
“You see Arlington and APAH trying to fill a really big hole,” said Cristol.
Northam thanked legislators, including state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), for helping to add $11 million to the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of which $700,000 is loaned to the Legion development.
The governor added the the fund needs an addition $9 million to meet affordable housing needs across Virginia, saying “we still have a lot of work to do.”
The current design of the Legion’s new building features a new access road that runs along the west side of the lot, by the Casual Adventure shop next door. At the rear of the lot, the road will end in a parking garage for residents and Legion members.
Some neighbors have expressed concern about traffic and noise from the development. A total of 96 parking spaces are proposed, some of which are designated for use by the Legion. Janopaul said the parking ratio is lower than other APAH projects due to proximity to transit, adding that a planned driveway was moved in response to resident concerns.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) An Arlington-based tech company is relocating its headquarters in Crystal City and pledging to add 1,000 new jobs in Arlington.
Incentive Technology Group, LLC (iTG) is investing $5.1 million in a 50,000 square-foot headquarters at the Presidential Tower office building at 2511 Jefferson Davis Highway, where it expects to hire for 128 positions this year.
The new headquarters, and the 1,000 jobs iTG pledged to add over the next three years, was announced by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam earlier today.
Virginia and Georgia both vied for iTG’s new headquarters, but Amazon appears to have helped tip the scales in Arlington’s favor.
“Arlington County’s recent influx of technical talent, as well as its ability to attract leading-edge companies to the area, such as Amazon, are the key reasons for iTG’s decision to stay in the region,” said iTG’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fehretdinov.
iTG consults with Amazon Web Services, per its website. Its customers include the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Communications Commission, National Cancer Institute, Bank of America, the General Services Administration, Vanguard, and United Healthcare.
Governor Northam described the company as a “homegrown small business” and said iTG’s choice to stay Arlington is “another example of how the region’s world-renowned tech talent and higher education system attracts and retains leading IT businesses of all sizes.
In the press release, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball, state Sen. Adam Ebbin and Del. Rip Sullivan lauded the move as evidence of the county’s growing economic power.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said he was “excited” that iTG planned to stay in the county.
“iTG has seen great success here, and in its new space is well-positioned to continue its growth in the field of information technology,” Dorsey said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with iTG as a valued partner in our business community.”
iTG was founded in 2008 and is currently located at 2121 Crystal Drive. It currently has “in excess of 200 Arlington employees,” Fehretdinov told ARLnow.
Jill Caiazzo, the chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, penned an email to the party’s mailing list Sunday (Feb. 10), in the hopes of buoying spirits dampened by recent revelations about Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.
While any one of the state’s top three elected Democrats could yet resign — Northam and Herring for admitting to wearing blackface as young people, Fairfax over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women — Caiazzo sought to remind party faithful that “the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals.”
She joined the growing calls for Fairfax to step down late last week, after a second woman accused him of rape, and has already demanded that Northam step aside. But, with all 140 state lawmakers and a variety of local offices on the ballot this fall, Caiazzo is urging her committee to work to “have an impact in our own community.”
Her full email to the committee is as follows:
We are all struggling to deal with the disturbing news from Richmond. I have sat down to pen this email to you multiple times over the past week, only to have my sentiments overtaken by the latest news cycle. I do not know how these controversies will end.
ARLINGTON DEMOCRATS’ ROLE IN NAVIGATING THIS CHALLENGE
But as I said at our monthly meeting on Wednesday, I do know that Arlington Democrats have a role to play in moving our community forward through these difficult times. We may not be able to affect the outcomes of the dramas happening in Richmond, but we can have an impact in our own community. We can reject hate and support sexual assault survivors. We can channel our collective anger that issues of racism and sexual assault still plague us into finding positive solutions for the manifestations of these issues in our own community.
We also can remember that the 2017 election was never about one or two individuals. It was about a movement of grassroots activists of all backgrounds and ages rising up to provide a badly needed course correction for our country. The rise of progressive activism was the central victory of the 2017 election. No subsequent controversy, however hurtful, can take that victory away from us. Only we have the power to do that — only we can decide whether we will allow this heartbreak also to break our activist spirit.
TOO MUCH TO ACCOMPLISH TO GIVE UP
To that question, Arlington Democrats, I say NO. I will not allow the failings of individual leaders to dampen my activist spirit. I cannot — there is simply too much work to be done to achieve a fairer, safer and more prosperous Commonwealth. The stakes are too high. As in early 2017, I am once again picking myself up and dusting myself off. Two steps forward, one step back: it’s time for the heart of the Democratic Party — its local activists — to keep moving forward again.
In that spirit, and mindful that Democrats must re-earn the trust of voters and volunteers that has been lost over the past few days, I respectfully invite you to join me at several upcoming events, detailed below. Some are organized by Arlington Democrats; others are community events. Now more than ever, we need both: to lead in our own right, and to meet our neighbors where they are. I hope that you will join me in the struggle to lead our Party, our community, and our Commonwealth forward.
Caiazzo is referring both to previous listening sessions held by activists on both race and sexual assault, and to some upcoming community discussions on the county’s history with Nazism and school desegregation.
Meanwhile, the situation in Richmond remains unsettled.
Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) made headlines this weekend for threatening to introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax if he refused to resign, and circulated a potential resolution to start the process among his Democratic colleagues. But he backed off that threat this morning (Monday), writing in a statement that he is “open to discussions on other avenues” that would allow for a full investigation of the accusations against Fairfax.
My statement this morning – I remain committed to the victims first. pic.twitter.com/01xynHwOdj
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 11, 2019
Some reports have suggested that Hope faced resistance from within his own party for the move, particularly from members of the Legislative Black Caucus.
NEWS: A House Dem conf call grew heated last night when members of the legislative black caucus demanded @HopeforVirginia step back from trying to impeach @LGJustinFairfax, per 2 Dems familiar w the call.
Hence the Hope climbdown this am…
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
A third Va Dem, this one briefed on the call said none of @HopeforVirginia's allies spoke up. Members of @VaBlackCaucus, which has been steering much of the reax among Va Dems since last Fri, spoke first and that was that.
"It was a pre-set massacre," says this Dem.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) February 11, 2019
The lieutenant governor is still telling reporters that he does not plan to resign, and is currently looking for an FBI investigation into the claims against him — one incident is alleged to have happened in Boston in 2004, the other in North Carolina in 2000.
Northam also gave some of his first interviews since the scandal broke with the news that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook, saying that he is “not going anywhere” and pledging a renewed focus to racial justice in the remainder of his term.
Herring has been silent, and criticism has been markedly more muted of his conduct, after he voluntarily admitted to wearing blackface once while in college, and apologized.
“I should additionally note that I have not called for the resignation of Attorney General Mark Herring, despite my strong disapproval of his conduct at age 19,” Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a Sunday email to constituents. “Herring’s voluntary admission of his blackface representation of a rapper, his lack of racist intent and his profound apology all seem sincere to me.”
However, Levine did note that he is one of just a few voices calling on Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3rd District) to step down, after reports that he edited a college yearbook that was filled with photos of students in blackface and racial slurs. Norment has denied any knowledge of the photos.
Photo via Facebook
Hope: No Impeachment Filing Yet — Updated at 9:50 a.m. — Del. Patrick Hope (D) says he’s delaying filing articles of impeachment against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is facing two accusations of past sexual assaults. “An enormous amount of sincere and thoughtful feedback… has led to additional conversations that need to take place,” Hope said. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
More Trailers for Arlington Tech — “Students coming into the Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center for the next two years may find themselves spending more time in trailers than they had thought, and more time than School Board members are happy about.” [InsideNova]
State Split on Northam’s Fate — “Virginians are deadlocked over whether Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should step down after the emergence of a photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page depicting people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan garb, with African Americans saying by a wide margin that he should remain in office despite the offensive image, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.” [Washington Post]
Beyer on Face the Nation — “Democratic Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer Wexton renewed their calls for Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax to step down over their respective controversies” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday morning. [CBS News]
Local Chef on CBS This Morning — Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse made an extended appearance on CBS This Morning Saturday, talking about his food, his restaurants and how his aunt inspired his love of cooking. [CBS News]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) now says he’ll introduce articles of impeachment to remove Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax from office on Monday if he doesn’t step down, now that another woman has come forward to accuse the second-most powerful Democrat in the state of sexual assault.
Hope announced the move tonight just a few hours after Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of raping her when the pair attended school together at Duke University in 2000. She wrote in a statement that the details of her assault mirrored those laid out by Vanessa Tyson, who previously said that Fairfax assaulted her in a Boston hotel room in 2004.
On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 8, 2019
Democrats had been hesitant to call for Fairfax to step down since Tyson’s statement, but pressure is now mounting for the lieutenant governor to step aside. Friday night, the state House and Senate Democratic caucuses released a joint statement, urging Fairfax to resign.
Joint House & Senate Democratic statement:
"Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth. He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down."
— VA Senate Democrats (@VASenateDems) February 9, 2019
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a similar statement.
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Statement on Most Recent Sexual Allegations Against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax pic.twitter.com/Bbj8sn4gF5
— VLBC (@VaBlackCaucus) February 9, 2019
The bulk of Virginia’s congressional delegation has also demanded Fairfax’s resignation, including Arlington Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District).
“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations,” Beyer and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), Elaine Luria (D-2nd District), Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) wrote in a statement. “He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”
For now, it would seem Fairfax is resisting pressure to step aside.
Statement from VA Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denying second sexual assault allegation, ends with “I will not resign.” pic.twitter.com/Tuj81iPRP7
— Sarah McCammon (@sarahmccammon) February 8, 2019
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has been similarly steadfast in the face of calls to resign over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, writing an email to state employees today saying he does not plan to step down. The fate of Attorney General Mark Herring (D) is also unclear, after he revealed he wore blackface while in college.
Earlier today, Hope posted a video on Twitter urging Northam and Herring to learn from their experiences, but stopped short of demanding their resignations. He’d previously supported calls for Northam to step down, but was silent on Herring, who he previously endorsed in Herring’s early stages of mounting a campaign for governor in 2021.
Hope said in the video that he believed Fairfax’s first accuser and thought an investigation was necessary.
Around 9 p.m. Friday, Hope held a press conference in front of Arlington Central Library in Virginia Square, laying out his case for the impeachment of Fairfax, should he refuse to resign. The press conference was attended by CNN, CBS, NBC and local D.C. stations.
Del. Patrick Hope (D) holding a press conference in front of Arlington Central Library https://t.co/1UWsA2DLdX
— Arlington Now (@ARLnowDOTcom) February 9, 2019
Photo via Facebook
County Democrats and local activists are planning a series of community forums to talk through the issues of race and sexual assault that have roiled Virginia politics for the past week.
With all three of the state’s top Democrats — Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — now mired in scandal, many within the party are searching for a way forward. There’s no telling whether any or all of the group will resign, leading to quite a bit of uncertainty at the top ranks of the party’s leadership.
In the meantime, the county’s Democratic Committee is planning two “listening sessions” covering some of the matters at the heart of the scandals in Richmond.
The first will focus on “racial equity” and will be held tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.).
The revelation that a racist photo appeared on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the governor’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface, kicked off the current crisis plaguing state government. Herring’s admission yesterday (Wednesday) that he too once donned blackface added further fuel to the political fire.
The next listening session will focus on sexual assault, after a college professor accused Fairfax of assaulting her in Boston in 2004. The lieutenant governor has faced a bit less pressure to resign than Northam, but some have started to ramp up calls that his accuser deserves to be heard.
The event will be held on Sunday (Feb. 10) at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).
A group of local activists also plan to hold a listening session to discuss the Northam controversy and its “implications for those who want to be allies in the fight for racial justice,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The event will include four panelists, and will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) at 7 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 8).
Photo via Facebook
Republican lawmakers have scuttled Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to ramp up state funding for affordable housing, a move that’s irked advocates hoping for more state help as Amazon starts to move into Arlington.
GOP leaders in both the state Senate and House of Delegates have now put forward budget proposals without the $19.5 million spread across two years Northam had hoped to see flow into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a program offering low-interest loans for developers hoping to build reasonably priced housing.
Though the fund would be available to applicants across the state, the governor’s effort to massively ramp up cash flowing into the fund was broadly seen as a small way the state could prepare for Amazon’s expected impacts on the housing market across the Northern Virginia region.
“We are outraged that selected members of Virginia’s money committees stripped this critical support for housing for Virginia families,” a coalition of 40 affordable housing advocacy groups wrote in a statement. Signatories include the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the Arlington Housing Corporation, the Alliance for Housing Solutions, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance.
The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $1 million for the fund over the next two years, while the House proposal includes no cash whatsoever.
Northam had planned to fund the increase as part of a suite of proposals to use $1.2 billion in new revenue generated by the federal tax reform passed in 2017. But Republicans, who hold narrow majorities in both chambers in the General Assembly, have been steadfast in removing those spending proposals from the budget as part of a broader fight over the tax revenues, arguing that the state would be better served by sending the money back to some middle-class taxpayers.
“We started building our budget with guidelines to remove from consideration any revenue based on the federal tax changes and to eliminate any spending based on that revenue,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-76th District), the head of the powerful House appropriations committee. “We are continuing our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy, provide more funding and flexibility to local schools and make college more affordable.”
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) was hoping for an even larger, $50 million influx into the fund on a one-time basis, yet that push is seemingly facing an uphill battle given the latest GOP budget proposal. He’d also proposed a bill to establish a permanent funding stream for the fund to avoid yearly appropriations battles, but that died on a party-line, 4-3 vote in a House subcommittee.
.@Lopez4VA: "Doubling down on the Trump tax scheme is not more important than helping vulnerable populations secure affordable housing in localities across the Commonwealth."
House GOP budget cuts the VA Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing.
— VA House Democrats (@VAHouseDems) February 7, 2019
The budget is still a long way off from being finalized, however. The House and Senate still need to reconcile the differences between the two proposals and, ordinarily, Northam would have a chance to negotiate for his spending priorities with Republican leaders.
But with the governor still facing pressure to resign, and Virginia’s two other top elected officials now engulfed in scandal, there’s no telling just how the remainder of the General Assembly session will play out. It’s currently set to wrap up on Feb. 23.
Democrats across Virginia have been shocked by yet another scandal today (Wednesday), after Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also once donned blackface at a college party.
Herring called a sudden gathering with the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus this morning to deliver the news, then released a statement to that effect shortly afterward. Herring said he dressed up in a wig “and brown makeup” in order to imitate a rap artist when he was in college, explaining it was due to a “callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others.”
“It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” Herring wrote. “That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt.”
His admission comes as politicians of both parties continue to press Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for similar reasons, after the discovery that a racist photo appeared on the governor’s medical school yearbook page and Northam’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface rocked the state capitol. The man in line to replace Northam should he step down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, has become mired in scandal as well since then, as a woman has come forward to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004.
The attorney general’s disclosure leaves the state’s top three elected officials in limbo — should all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would be in line to become governor.
Herring said in his statement that he would have “honest conversations and discussions” about whether he’d seek to stay in office, as both Northam and Fairfax have so far sought to do. Herring joined virtually all of the state’s Democrats in calling on Northam to resign soon after the discovery of his yearbook page, but other Democrats have yet to demand that the state’s top lawyer step down with the same speed that they called for Northam’s job.
Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine expressed shock and surprise at the revelation when reporters questioned them about it this afternoon.
SEN. WARNER reacts to the news coming out of Virginia, saying he’s “shocked and disappointed” by what he’s heard thus far about the Attorney General.
“This has been an awful week for Virginia,” he said for the first time on camera since the Gov. Northam news broke last week. pic.twitter.com/ruucjbGTHx
— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) February 6, 2019
.@timkaine on Herring: "I am shocked and saddened to learn of this incident. This revelation throws salt in a wound opened wide in recent days."
— Jenna Portnoy (@jennaportnoy) February 6, 2019
Other state lawmakers have yet to comment on Herring’s admission, including Arlington’s delegation or local Democratic committee.
The news could also torpedo Herring’s nascent campaign for governor — he’d already announced plans to run for the top spot in Virginia politics in 2021, and earned the early endorsement of local Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) a few weeks ago. Hope did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Herring’s admission.
Northam put pen to paper on the legislation last night, a day before it was set to become law without his signature. An identical companion bill is still pending in the state Senate, but Northam’s approval and the General Assembly’s overwhelming support of both pieces of legislation likely means its passage is a mere formality.
Unlike the massive media circus Northam convened to herald Amazon’s selection of Crystal City and Pentagon City for a massive new headquarters, the governor signed the incentives bill without so much as a press release. The governor is currently facing relentless calls to resign, after the revelation that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook page and his subsequent admission that he once wore blackface during a dance competition.
But even that scandal was not enough to derail the completion of the Amazon deal, which Northam and his staffers took the lead in negotiating alongside a small group of state lawmakers.
“This is an investment in the growth of Virginia,” Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr wrote in a statement. “It will help diversify the economy and serve as a catalyst for drawing in other businesses and sought-after jobs. We believe the establishment of our headquarters in Virginia and 25,000 new, high-paying jobs, is a benefit to the entire commonwealth, and we are excited for what the future holds.”
Under the terms of the deal, state officials will send the tech giant $550 million in grant money to defray the company’s tax burden, so long as Amazon comes through on its promise to bring those 25,000 jobs to Arlington between now and 2030. Amazon could earn another $200 million if it adds another 12,850 jobs at the new headquarters through 2034, but it’s not committed to doing so.
The legislation just approved by Northam may be the single largest piece of the county’s offer to Amazon, but it’s far from the only sweetener state officials dangled to attract the company.
Two transportation projects promised as part of the deal — a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station and an expansion of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard bus rapid transit system to Pentagon City — recently won tens of millions in state funds, though three remaining transportation improvements still need to find funding.
Officials also agreed to invest $800 million over the next 20 years to help state universities hand out 25,000 degrees in high-tech fields, in a bid to provide a “tech talent pipeline” that could fuel Amazon’s new headquarters. A Senate bill establishing the program passed that chamber unanimously yesterday (Tuesday), while an identical companion in the House of Delegates also passed that body on a 92-5 vote.
Finally, Arlington officials need to sign off on their own incentive deal with the company, designed to send about $23 million to Amazon over the next 15 years. The money will be drawn from an increase in hotel tax revenues expected to be driven by Amazon’s arrival.
The County Board had long planned to consider the issue at the end of the month, but has since backed off that timeline in favor of examining the deal no earlier than mid-March.
Longtime Election Director Retiring — “Linda Lindberg, who has served for 16 years as elections chief in Arlington, on Feb. 2 formally announced she would not seek re-appointment and would retire over the summer. The move had been expected, and Lindberg’s service drew praise from members of the Arlington Electoral Board.” [InsideNova]
Northam Signs HQ2 Bill — “Amid fallout over a racist photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation which would carry out the state’s promise to Amazon for up to $750 million in incentives if it creates almost 38,000 jobs at its new Arlington County headquarters.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Board Wants Project Labor Agreement for HQ2 — “[Arlington County Board member Katie] Cristol says that Northern Virginia is working on protecting labor during Amazon’s forthcoming development of Crystal City through what’s called a project labor agreement, which is a legal document that establishes the terms and conditions for employment on a construction project before it solicits bids.” [DCist]
Cycling Bill Advances in State Senate — A bill that would “classify cyclists as vulnerable road users deserving special protection under the law” has passed the Virginia State Senate. [Twitter, Virginia LIS]
Road Closures for 5K Race — “The annual Love the Run You’re With 5K will take place in the area of Pentagon City on Sunday, February 10, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will implement [a number of] road closures to accommodate the race.” [Arlington County]
Gov. Ralph Northam continues to resist an overwhelming chorus of voices calling on him to resign his post today (Monday), including virtually all of Arlington’s Democratic leadership.
Northam, a Democrat, has experienced a dizzying reversal in his political fortunes since revelations late Friday that a photo of one man wearing a KKK uniform and another wearing blackface appeared on his medical school yearbook page.
The governor initially released a statement acknowledging he was indeed pictured in that photograph, leading to near-unanimous calls for his resignation Friday night. But in a hastily convened press conference Saturday afternoon, Northam reversed himself, claiming he is now confident he is not pictured in the racist photograph and that it was placed on his yearbook page by mistake.
However, Northam did confess to once donning blackface as part of a dance competition in 1984 while impersonating Michael Jackson. That admission, combined with his sudden reversal, only served to intensify pressure from party leaders that Northam must give way to his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) was one of the few elected officials to stop short of demanding Northam’s resignation ahead of the press conference. But Arlington’s lone congressman released a statement immediately after the governor’s comments saying he’d expected Northam to resign Saturday, and instead wants him to go.
“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” Beyer wrote in a joint statement with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District). “It is for that reason that the governor must step aside and allow the process of healing to begin under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.”
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey added that Northam’s explanations at the press conference “strain credulity” and urged him to step down as well.
“Even after giving him the benefit of many doubts, I was struck by his inability to accept responsibility and articulate any concrete steps to promote healing in our state,” Dorsey wrote in a statement. “Someone who has grown as Mr. Northam professes would have recognized that he has lost the confidence of so many Virginians along with his most ardent supporters… And Democrats and progressives, please don’t think that a Northam resignation cures what ails us. Our work to build systems that recognize the dignity, value and importance of all persons remains unfulfilled.”
Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a newsletter to constituents that he doesn’t believe Northam to be a racist, but that the governor’s changing stories undermined his confidence in Northam’s leadership going forward. State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) expressed similar concerns, saying that an “important bond of trust has been broken.”
“What Northam said Saturday may well be true,” Levine wrote. “But at this point, how can he possibly lead Virginia?”
Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner also issued statements pressing him to resign after the press conference, as has the rest of Virginia’s Democratic members of Congress. Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, the House of Delegates’ Democratic caucus, Senate Democrats and Virginia’s Democratic Party all issued similar demands after Northam addressed the media.
The Arlington Young Democrats wrote in a statement that they believe “Gov. Northam can no longer serve effectively and must resign immediately” after the press conference, while the county’s full Democratic Committee called for his resignation before it (and its Twitter account has since retweeted a variety of demands that he resign after he spoke to reporters).
The rest of Arlington’s state legislative delegation has yet to re-up their statements demanding Northam’s removal, but they unanimously supported their caucuses’ calls for the governor to step down in social media posts ahead of his press conference.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 2, 2019
A painful day. Gov Northam has given years of service to his country & Virginia. However, symbols of racial oppression should never be treated lightly – especially considering Virginia’s painful history. I stand w/my Caucus in urging him to resign & help restore the public trust. https://t.co/ErLxZ4IkrF
— Alfonso Lopez (@Lopez4VA) February 2, 2019
I stand behind the House Democratic Caucus’s statement. https://t.co/dwdjKNR0lY
— Rip Sullivan (@RipSullivan48) February 2, 2019
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) February 2, 2019
County Board member Katie Cristol also issued a similar statement Friday.
I struggle to reconcile the violence and disrespect for dignity of others conveyed in this image with my personal experience of Gov Northam as a decent, compassionate man. But the implication is clear. For the good of a Virginia where every citizen is valued, he must step down.
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) February 2, 2019
Beyer’s predecessor and longtime Rep. Jim Moran was one of the few voices defending the governor Sunday.
“I do disagree with their judgment because I think it is a rush to judgment before we know all of the facts and before we’ve considered all of the consequences,” Moran said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Northam said Saturday he’d consider resigning if he felt he could no longer govern effectively, but it’s unclear what would happen should he refuse to do so. The General Assembly could look to impeach Northam, though constitutional scholars are split on whether this controversy would rise to the level of misconduct required for impeachment.
Should Northam ultimately step down, Fairfax would become just the second African American governor in Virginia’s history, and its second youngest as well.
Virginia governors are generally limited to one term in office, but Fairfax, who was widely expected to run for governor in 2021, could be in the unusual position of filling out Northam’s remaining two years in office, then running for a full four-year term. Scholars are also debating the logistics of that matter, and just how Fairfax would find a new lieutenant governor should he ascend to Northam’s seat.
Photo via @GovernorVA