‘This session demonstrates exactly what is at stake this fall…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Although it seems increasingly clear that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax may dodge direct accountability by riding out their respective racism and rape scandals, other Democrats in the state fear the political fallout will weigh on their upcoming campaigns.
According to the Free Beacon, few—if any—of the Democrats in the Virginia legislature expressed plans to campaign with Northam and Fairfax prior to this year’s state elections.
Republicans, on the other hand, vowed not to let the galling hypocrisies be wiped from public memory as Virginians head to the polls in November to send representatives to the General Assembly.
This session demonstrates exactly what is at stake this fall.
The controversies of the Democratic statewide office holders have led to chaos and embarrassment for our state.
Meanwhile, the Republican-led General Assembly has delivered leadership and results. pic.twitter.com/dHyLEOC6BW
— VA House GOP (@vahousegop) February 24, 2019
Northam, after defying bipartisan calls to resign over a yearbook photo that likely depicted him in blackface alongside a companion dressed in KKK robes, announced in February that he would use the remaining three years of his term to support a radical agenda aimed at healing the deep wounds of racism in the state that the Democratic Party is historically responsible for.
Fairfax also refused calls to resign after two women came forward with separate allegations of rape against him, drawing strong parallels with last September’s hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox said he plans to hold public hearings on the Fairfax accusations.
But GOP members of the state Senate and House of Delegates, which hold the narrowest of majorities—including one that was decided by drawing a name from a bowl—hope voters will be mobilized at the polls to elect a legislature that will keep its corrupt executives in check.
The GOP long held a solid majority in the General Assembly, but demographic changes and left-wing activists’ court-enforced gerrymandering efforts recently have begun to erode it.
Despite what Democrats in the state have viewed as a growing trend in their direction, the scandals of the party’s top leaders now promise to throw the Old Dominion’s politics into a tailspin.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner—himself a former Virginia governor and now a political mainstay—acknowledged that the scandals of his fellow party members were “very challenging” to the brand he had spent 20 years working to build.
Warner, however, seemed to backpedal from the firm line he drew early on demanding the two step down. He said Fairfax was entitled to “due process” and that Northam should work to win back constituents’ trust.
“When I called for his resignation, along with my friend Tim Kaine, we said the governor had lost the faith of the people of Virginia,” Warner said. “[Northam] has a right to try to regain that faith, but I believe that will involve him getting out and making that case directly to Virginians.”
Other elected officials with less political clout than Warner seemed more tentative about the idea of Northam increasing his public presence during campaign season.
In a pair of videos produced by the conservative America Rising PAC that accompanied the Free Beacon article, many Democratic delegates quickened their pace and gave no answer when asked whether they would campaign with Northam and Fairfax.
Del. Lamont Bagby, one of the few to respond, said, “I don’t think they’re gonna be campaigning.”
Bagby later clarified in a phone interview that he meant they weren’t up for election this year. “Neither one of them has campaigned for me in the past,” he added. “I don’t know whether they will campaign for me in the future, but it’s way too early to make decisions about who you’re campaigning with.”
Political watchers will certainly gaze with interest to see what the outcome of the 2019 state elections may reveal about the following year’s national race. President Donald Trump issued a tweet early in the Northam scandal expressing confidence that it would enable him to move the state back into the red category.
Democrats at the top are killing the Great State of Virginia. If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken. Virginia will come back HOME Republican) in 2020!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2019
Warner also faces re-election to his third-term in the U.S. Senate in 2020. Although no challenger has yet announced, the Northam scandal and a strong Trump economy could help reinvigorate the GOP on the heels of a disappointing effort to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018.
As Virginia governors are limited to a single four-year term, the gubernatorial race in 2021 will be another interesting one to watch. Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring (also marred by several negatives recently, including his own blackface scandal) were the two top prospects to succeed Northam. It remains to be seen whether they can rehabilitate their images in time.
But if Democrats wish to retain the governor’s mansion for a third consecutive term, their best bellwether and hope of doing so might be to see Trump re-elected. For more than four decades, with only one exception (as Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell faced bribery charges for which he was later cleared), Virginians in the year after a presidential election have chosen a governor belonging to the opposite party of the sitting president.