Democrats in the Virginia House of Delegates released a statement Thursday night saying that the racist behavior and rape allegations that have struck the state’s top leaders — all Democrats — is troubling, but insisting it’s not a partisan problem.
The House Democratic Caucus said its members will be talking with constituents over the weekend to try to figure out a path forward.
“Much of the discussion has, rightfully, centered around who we are as Democrats as we continue to stand against racism and against sexual assault. We respect all survivors and believe they should be fully heard,” the caucus said. “However, this is not a partisan problem, but a problem for all Virginians and all Americans.”
Over the last week Gov. Ralph Northam has had to answer for a photo of someone in blackface and another in a KKK costume that appeared on his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied he was in the photo, but admitted to darkening his face to appear black for a dance contest.
Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who would take over should Mr. Northam resign, was then publicly accused of raping a woman when they were both attending the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.
And Attorney General Mark Herring, who had called on Mr. Northam to resign after the blackface photo emerged, then admitted this week to his own blackface incident in 1980.
Meanwhile, state Senate Republicans’ leader was revealed Thursday to have been one of the editors of a college yearbook in the 1960s that featured racist photos.
The revelations about the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general have left Democrats reeling.
While those three jobs aren’t on the ballot this November, all 140 seats in the state General Assembly are — and Democrats fear heading into the campaign led by two men with admitted race problems, and a third under the cloud of the rape allegation.
Looking to turn attention back to policy issues, the House Democratic Caucus in its statement Thursday said lawmakers in the assembly are still working on basic business as this year’s session continues.
“The challenges we faced this week did not stop us from doing the work that our constituents elected us to do. We have represented them in budget negotiations to give our hardworking teachers a raise, to fix our roads, and to make our education system the best it can be,” the caucus said.
“Now more than ever, we must be united as Virginians and not as partisans. We will continue to work across the aisle with our Republican colleagues, whose constituents are relying on them as well,” the caucus said.
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