Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam celebrates his election victory with his wife Pam and daughter Aubrey, right, and Dorothy McAuliffe, wife of Virginia Gov....
Cliff Owen

Things go from bad to worse with new revelations in Virginia

Updated

The Rachel Maddow Show, 2/4/19, 9:14 PM ET

Virginia Democrats scramble to address damage from Northam photo

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, discusses the pressure Virginia Democrats are putting on Governor Ralph Northam to encourage him to step down from office.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, discusses the pressure Virginia Democrats are putting on Governor Ralph Northam to encourage him to step down from office.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is already facing a scandal over racist incidents from his past, and there’s near-unanimity in Democratic politics that the governor should resign. If he were to step down, Northam would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D).

Except, he’s facing a scandal of his own. Dr. Vanessa Tyson, an associate professor of politics at Scripps College in California, has accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in 2004. The lieutenant governor has said there was a sexual encounter, but he’s insisted it was consensual. Tyson has hired Christine Blasey Ford’s legal team to represent her.

If Northam and Fairfax were to step down, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) would become governor, except he too now has a problem.

Virginia’s Democratic attorney general … admitted on Wednesday he once wore blackface at a college party in 1980.

“In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,” AG Mark Herring said in a statement. “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Herring called it “a onetime occurrence” and said, “I accept full responsibility for my conduct.” He said the “shame of that moment has haunted me for decades.”

Herring’s statement was just released a couple of hours ago, and it’s not yet clear whether Northam’s many critics will also call for the attorney general’s ouster.

Unlike the governor, Herring left open the possibility of stepping down, adding in his written statement, “In the days ahead, honest conversations and discussions will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve as attorney general, but no matter where we go from here, I will say that from the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry for the pain that I cause with this revelation.”

And who serves if the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all step down?

The power would shift to Kirkland Cox, Virginia’s Speaker of the House of Delegates. Unlike Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, who are all Democrats, Cox is a Republican.

The next gubernatorial election won’t be held in the commonwealth until 2021.

Postscript: Between all of these developments, and former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) recent corruption trial, who knew that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) would be the one to have offered Virginians quiet, steady leadership?