The ripple effects of Gov. Ralph Northam's blackface scandal and ensuing problems for Attorney General Mark Herring and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax flowed across the commonwealth and into our region over the past 10 days.
In recent weeks, Virginians and casual political observers found themselves wondering what would happen now that the dust has, in a way, settled from the February revelation of a photo on Northam's medical school yearbook page. The now infamous image, placed along three pictures clearly showing Northam, displays one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. For anyone who somehow forgot, the Democratic governor at first apologized for being in the photo, but he then backtracked and said he doesn't believe it's him in the picture.
Could the scandal possibly just go away, people asked. Would it be forgotten in our busy, dizzying culture?
We knew it wouldn't. And we know it shouldn't.
The fact is the General Assembly has short sessions, and lawmakers had work to finish up in the immediate weeks after the photo surfaced. Legislators on both sides of the aisle couldn't afford to exert all their energy chasing the governor out of office or attempting to defend his ability to lead the commonwealth; they had sausage to make – initiatives to pitch, bills to tweak and a budget to structure.
This is a mountainous election year in Virginia, with every seat in the General Assembly up for a vote. That's why having a governor who isn't able to effectively and efficiently raise money is a big problem for Virginia Democrats, who are looking to take control of both chambers in Richmond for the first time in 25 years.
The Associated Press reported last week that Northam, Herring and Fairfax posted anemic campaign finance reports Monday. Their hauls are well below what their predecessors raised at similar points in past election cycles. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, raised more than $530,000 in 2015 after the session ended, and former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell raised $428,000, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit money-in-politics tracker.
Northam, by contrast, raised just $2,500 for his political action committee after session. He reported spending $341,000 last quarter, including $25,000 at a law firm and $15,000 for a crisis communications team after his scandal broke.
This fundraising barrier is one reason McAuliffe announced Wednesday he would hang tight in the commonwealth rather than embark on what many politicos felt was a certain presidential bid. McAuliffe's fundraising prowess will be needed now more than ever with Northam serving as a lame duck moneyman.
Beyond politics, though, we commend leaders of the Loudoun and Fairfax chapters of the NAACP for standing on principle and protesting Northam's planned visit to Fairfax County on April 14. Their presence led to the governor canceling his fundraising appearance.
Virginia's squalid history of slavery, Jim Crow, continued racism and Charlottesville is front of mind for thousands of residents. We now have a governor who's a constant reminder of this seedy past.
Leaders in the local African American community aren't keen on letting Northam and his supporters forget about that degrading photo – or the embarrassing press conference the next day. That's well and good, but no one should need a reminder of the shame Mr. Northam brought on our commonwealth two months ago.