Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “cannot effectively govern” following the controversy over a racist photo on his 1984 medical school yearbook page, a Virginia lawmaker who’s known him for more than a decade said Monday.
Del. Charniele Herring, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said the controversy has burned away all the goodwill Northam had with lawmakers in the commonwealth.
“He cannot effectively govern now. It’s time to step aside. And I know it’s hard, but it is time,” she said Monday on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Herring added that the governor will no longer be able to work with lawmakers following the controversy.
“How much credibility does he have when negotiating trade agreements for the commonwealth when dealing with legislators?” Herring asked. “Honestly, for me that will always be at the back of my mind.”
Northam has faced increasing pressure from state and national leaders to resign since a photo on his page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook surfaced Friday. The photo showed one man in blackface and another person dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Northam initially took responsibility for the photo and apologized for it Friday night.
“He told me personally on Friday that he acknowledges it was him in the photograph,” Herring said.
However, Northam backtracked, claiming at a news conference Saturday that he was not either of the individuals pictured.
Northam did admit to wearing blackface for a Michael Jackson dance contest that had taken place around the same time the photo was taken.
Herring called it “profound” that Northam had donned blackface one year before Virginia would elect Douglas Wilder as lieutenant governor. Wilder would later go on to be the first African-American governor in the history of the United States.
“His actions have been painful and cutting for many Virginians,” Herring said.
She said Northam’s insistence on staying in office has created a distraction for the state when it needs to be focused on other things. The state Legislature is working on proposals to pass a two-year budget and overhaul the tax policy.
“I understand that he wants time to clear his name, but Virginians don’t have time,” she said. “We need to refocus on the task at hand, and it would help the commonwealth if he would step aside soon, very soon.”
Northam told advisers Monday morning that he is resistant to resigning in part over fears that doing so would brand him a “racist for life,” sources told CNN.
He said he believed the only way to clear his name would be to stay in office and prove it was not him in the photo.
Herring, however, said senior officials in the Virginia government believe Northam will resign. She said she was not yet ready to discuss what action could be taken if he chooses to stay in office.