The Virginia House Democratic Caucus is accepting campaign donations from Governor Ralph Northam’s political action committee just six months after issuing a resounding call for his resignation following the emergence of a racist photo in his medical-school yearbook.
Northam’s PAC, The Way Ahead, donated $21,000 to the state House Democratic Caucus on July 31, according to a state campaign-finance database.
The acceptance of thousands of dollars in donations to help regain a legislative majority represents a sharp departure from the caucus’s universal condemnation of Northam in the wake of the February yearbook scandal.
“We are so deeply saddened by the news that has been revealed today. We are having trouble reconciling our experience with Governor Northam with what we see in this photo. The Governor Northam we know is a great friend and ally, who has served and dedicated himself to our Commonwealth and the nation,” the House Democratic Caucus said in a statement released hours after the yearbook photo surfaced online. “However, constituents’ trust in their elected officials is paramount. We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor’s representation of Virginians. Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam’s resignation.”
The photo in question appeared on Northam’s 1984 Eastern Virginia University Medical School yearbook page. It depicted two men, one in blackface and another clad in a Ku Klux Klan robe. After initially issuing an apology, Northam held a press conference in which he denied appearing in the photo but admitted to donning blackface on another occasion while in college.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus joined the state Democratic caucus and national Democrats in demanding Northam’s resignation after meeting privately with him.
“We just finished meeting with the Governor. We fully appreciate all that he has contributed to our Commonwealth. But given what was revealed today, it is clear that he can no longer effectively serve as Governor. It is time for him to resign, so that Virginia can begin the process of healing,” the black caucus’s statement read.
State delegate Danica Roem, who represents Prince William County, immediately endorsed the Virginia Congressional Black Caucus’s call for Northam’s resignation.
“I stand in solidarity with the @VaBlackCaucus in calling for the resignation of the governor of Virginia. Who I know him to be today is not reflective of his racist past but the wound ripped open today by that racism has irreparably harmed our commonwealth and hurt our people,” Roem wrote on Twitter.
Roem, a transgender Democratic incumbent facing a challenge from Republican Kelly Sweeney McGinn, has received $139,404 in donations from the House Democratic caucus this cycle.
All of the state’s congressional representatives, the Democratic Governor’s Association, and the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus also called on Northam to resign.
Northam has struggled to raise money in the months after weathering the near-universal calls for his resignation. He raised just over $300,000 between April and June, well below the millions that his two most recent predecessors raised over the same months in previous years.