Virginia’s governor pledges to work toward racial healing

By ALAN SUDERMAN

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s governor pledged to work at healing the state’s racial divide Saturday, even as calls mounted for the lieutenant governor to resign – capping an astonishing week that saw all three of the state’s top elected officials embroiled in potentially career-ending scandals.

Two women have accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault, and he has emphatically denied both allegations. After the second allegation was made Friday, Fairfax — who stands to become the state’s second black governor if Gov. Ralph Northam resigns over a racist photo — was barraged with demands to step down from top Democrats, including a number of presidential hopefuls and most of Virginia’s congressional delegation.

Meanwhile, Northam — now a year into his four-year term — announced his intention to stay at a Friday afternoon Cabinet meeting, according to a senior official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

In so doing, Northam defied practically the entire Democratic Party, which rose up against him after a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced and he acknowledged wearing blackface in the 1980s.

In his first interview since the scandal erupted, a chastened Northam told The Washington Post on Saturday that the uproar has pushed him to confront the state’s deep and lingering divisions over race, as well as his own insensitivity. But he said that reflection has convinced him that, by remaining in office, he can work to resolve them.

“It’s obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do,” Northam said in the interview, conducted at the governor’s mansion. “There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity.”

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