Former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder slammed gubernatorial candidate and fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe for reversing his condemnation of the state’s top presiding Democrat leaders, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
“No reasons have been given to the voters as to Terry’s change of mind,” he posted to Facebook on Tuesday.
When an abjectly racist photo of an adult Northam first resurfaced in 2019, and when Fairfax was subsequently accused by two women of sexual assault, McAuliffe—who had preceded Northam as governor—called on both men to resign.
However, after the scandals involving the two—as well as third-in-line state Attorney General Mark Herring, who also admitted to wearing blackface—threatened to put a Republican back in the governor’s mansion, Democrats abruptly backed off their halfhearted pressure campaign.
Just two years later, when McAuliffe became eligible under state law to seek the governorship once again, he touted Northam’s endorsement, saying he was “honored to have his support.”
Governor Northam has been leading Virginia through this crisis so he knows exactly what it’s going to take to rebuild from the pandemic: bold plans and tested leadership.
I am honored to have his support. https://t.co/q7ktlLqFpB
— Terry McAuliffe (@TerryMcAuliffe) April 8, 2021
Wilder—who, in 1989, became the first black governor in the US since Reconstruction—remained wary of the political flip-flop.
He noted that the emboldened Northam had gone so far as to withdraw his prior apology for the “blackface” scandal.
The photo on his personal page of a 1984 medical-school yearbook also damningly depicted a person in Ku Klux Klan regalia.
However, Northam has offered no clarity as to which of the two was him, instead denying that he had anything to do with the photo.
“Is what Northam and Herring did … alright by any standard?” Wilder asked. “Or does this suggest that if you’re a Black person in Virginia, if you’ve got to think about who you are going to vote for then ‘you ain’t Black.’”
Wilder has long been a critic of McAuliffe, arguing his decision to run for governor a second time is a betrayal of the state constitution’s intentions.
Virginia’s state constitution prohibits governors from holding consecutive terms but does not expressly prevent them from running again later on.
“There is a seeming advantage to those who have assembled power and influence while in office to leap frog from one administration to a same or similar; thus accomplishing the very thing that our constitution sought to prevent,” Wilder said back in January. “The disadvantages to minority and women candidates speaks volumes.”
Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.