On Busiest Day of the Year, General Assembly Feeling Effects of Northam Controversy

Feb 5, 2019

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, left, greets Saifaldin Abdul Rahman of the Dar Al Noor Islamic Center after Rahman offered the prayer as the Senate session began earlier today. Fairfax, was confronted with an uncorroborated allegation of sexual misconduct first reported by a conservative website. Fairfax denied the allegation Monday and called it a political smear, telling reporters the 2004 encounter with a woman was consensual.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

The General Assembly is in a state of limbo. Lawmakers are trying to get work done on the busiest day of the year while people are wondering when — or if — the governor will resign.

“The clerk will report any communication from the governor.”

“We do not have any, sir.”

“Thank you, Madam Clerk.”

That’s Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax asking Senate Clerk Susan Schaar about any messages from Governor Ralph Northam. Normally a routine part of Senate business. But these days it has a heightened sense of drama because many people are expecting a resignation letter any day now.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says that’s probably inevitable, but not right away.

“He wants to be able to present some evidence that shows that is not him, and at that point once he’s sort of made a statement about his honor and his integrity as it relates to that photograph, at that point then he steps away.”

Bob Denton at Virginia Tech says he’s bothered by the rush to judgment.

“But as we see about the monuments, as we see about the MeToo movement, it’s very reactive, polarizing and instantaneous and I’m just not sure that’s good for the body politic.”

Whoever the governor is in a few weeks, he’ll be presented with a massive job — review thousands of bills and decide whether to sign, veto or amend them. That might be the current governor if he’s still in office. Or it could be the guy asking the clerk of the Senate for communications from the governor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.