Gov. Ralph Northam Is Back, Baby

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Remember Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the guy whose medical school yearbook page featured a photo of a person in blackface and a person in a Klu Klux Klan robe? The photo which launched a series of scandals for politicians inside and outside the state as similar photos were discoverd in other yearbooks? Well, he’s doing great now.

Having resisted the many, many calls for his resignation during the height of the scandal, Democrat Northam is bouncing back, according to the Washington Post. In fact, as important state elections to be held this fall heat up, Northam may find himself in a powerful position, given Democratic ambitions to take back the state legislatures.

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One of the first signs of Northam’s comeback occurred after the horrific shooting in Virginia Beach, VA last week, which left 12 dead. After the shooting, Northam called a special legislative session on gun control and made the rounds to the media promoting it, according to the Post.

Of course, Virginia Republicans are furious.

“It doesn’t matter if Northam is vetoing or signing legislation, he is still a racist that’s doing everything he can to stay in power. It’s embarrassing to all Virginians,” John March, spokesman for the Virginia GOP, told the Post.

Yeah, like you guys haven’t done a good enough job embarrassing yourselves.

But regardless of what Republicans (and many Democrats) think, Northam is inching back into the spotlight. The Democrats only need to take four seats, two in each chamber, to get a Democratic majority in both houses this November. With Northam as governor, a Democratic Virginia legislature would be free to pass legislation without worrying about a veto for the first time since 1993.

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“It would put him in a rare position,” Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University, told the Post. “And I would imagine all those Democrats who had called for his resignation would just forget about it. They would just act like nobody sees that elephant in the corner.”

“When he makes moves such as [calling the special session], it clearly indicates that he won’t shy away from opportunities to lead,” Virginia Delegate Lamont Bagby, who is the head of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, told the Post.

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“I think we all have a duty to govern even in the face of adversity,” Bagby added.

The caucus has not withdrawn its request for Northam to resign.

Northam was never able to explain the photo that appeared on his page of the medical school yearbook. He initially took responsibility for the photo, later said he wasn’t pictured in it, and subsequently made the baffling admission that he had worn blackface for a Halloween costume on another occasion. The official investigation into the photo, which ended recently, sure didn’t clear anything up.

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Northam’s actions since the scandal complicate the political calculus for Democrats.

From the Post:

Last week, the governor signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) to eliminate minimum-wage exemptions for positions such as shoe-shiners, a leftover from the Jim Crow era designed to harm black workers. Northam also went a step further and announced a commission to scour the state code so that any other vestiges of Jim Crow could be purged.

Similarly, Northam signed bills last week aimed at reducing the maternal mortality rate, then announced a sweeping effort to understand why black women are more than twice as likely to die during childbirth as white women. He pledged to end the disparity by 2025, instructing state agencies to expedite Medicaid enrollment for pregnant women and directing health departments to increase cultural bias training, among other steps.

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Many of these moves apparently came out of meetings Northam took with black leaders after the scandal broke. Maybe he was really listening after all!

Read the rest of the story over at the Post.

 

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