Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli III says he is surprised that the Ralph Northam he knows would put a racist photo in a medical school yearbook, but he thinks Northam needs to resign. But he says revived allegations of sexual assault against the man who would replace Northam make things even more complicated.
On Friday, Big League Politics broke the story of the photo showing one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. Northam initially apologized for appearing in the photo but later said he was certain he was in in it and has no idea how it got on his yearbook page.
Cuccinelli served with Northam in the Virginia State Senate and says the revelation came as a very big surprise.
“It’s really at odds with his personality and his behavior. I’ve never observed him undertaking a racist act or statement or seen evidence of so much as a thought in all of the years I’ve known Ralph, which is more than a decade now. So this is all the more shocking,” said Cuccinelli, who seems to agree that Northam can no longer effectively lead Virginia.
Cuccinelli says this saga also opens an old wound in the commonwealth’s history.
“I think this is a reminder that while we are growing out of the racist past Virginia had, those remnants are still around and they still matter in people’s lives,” said Cuccinelli.
Despite calls to resign from the vast majority of Virginia and national Democrats, Northam is refusing. Some of his critics want state lawmakers to pursue impeachment charges, but Cuccinelli says they really can’t.
“It’s really up to the governor because impeachment in Virginia is more or less the same as at the federal level. It’s only for acts taken in office,” said Cuccinelli. “There’s no availability of impeachment here. It’s really in Ralph Northam’s hands whether he resigns or not.”
The story got even more bizarre on Monday, with reports that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Fairfax is vigorously denying the charge, which was never prosecuted, but Cuccinelli says the Northam mess and the Fairfax allegation are emerging at the busiest possible time in Virginia politics.
Tuesday is what’s known as “crossover,” when the House of Delegates and the State Senate must pass any bills originating from their members or else the opportunity is lost for the year. Key votes on tax relief and budgeting are taking place with both Northam and Fairfax heavily distracted.
If Northam exits and Fairfax becomes governor, Cuccinelli says the lieutenant governor’s position will remain vacant, but the Senate President Pro-Tem would effectively take over the duties of the office, which could lead to some interesting moments on deadlocked votes.
“[This] could allow him to vote on a bill which then ends up in a tie, and he gets to break the tie,” said Cuccinelli.
While Cuccinelli is aghast at the Northam allegations, he is also stunned that the media could barely stifle a yawn two days before the yearbook story broke, when Northam seemed to defend infanticide in a radio interview.
“The dichotomy has been quite extraordinary
Listen to the full podcast to hear Cuccinelli discuss the Northam and Fairfax allegations in more detail and his frustration with media’s disinterest in the Virginia abortion debate.