Tom Perez says Northam’s ability to lead ‘compromised’

February 24, 2019 GMT

Top Democrats still believe that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam should step down over the blackface scandal, but nobody’s really insisting.

Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez acknowledged Sunday that he had called three weeks ago for Mr. Northam to resign, saying, “I believe his ability to govern has been undermined.”

“I called for Gov. Northam to step down,” said Mr. Perez on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think his ability to govern has been compromised.”

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who heads the Democratic Governors Association, said Saturday that the organization also stands by its call for the resignation of Mr. Northam, who has apologized for racist photos in his medical-school yearbook and for wearing blackface during a talent contest.

“Obviously a very, very disappointing and challenging set of circumstances in Virginia,” Ms. Raimondo said at a press conference. “The DGA swiftly called for Gov. Northam’s resignation, which was a somewhat unprecedented move by the DGA, but we felt in light of these circumstances it was appropriate, and stand by that.”

At the same time, there appears to be little interest in doing more to force out Mr. Northam, who has maintained that he will remain in office and has launched a reconciliation tour.

“The situation in Virginia is very fluid, as you say, and at this point it’s up to the people of Virginia and the citizens of Virginia to decide what the best moves are for that state in terms of their leadership going forward,” said Ms. Raimondo, as shown on video on the DGA’s Facebook page.

Most of the focus in Richmond has been on Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, accused by two women of sexual assault, which he denies. House Courts of Justice Committee chairman Rob Bell, a Republican, announced Friday he would hold a hearing on the matter and invited both women to appear.

Mr. Perez said he disagreed with such an approach, saying he had “a concern in the context of having a part-time state legislature conducting the hearings.”

“I don’t think the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate are the right place to investigate it,” Mr. Perez said. “We should have an independent investigation that should be prompt, it should be thorough, it should be fair. And that’s what should happen.”

A spokesman for Mr. Fairfax said he has “consistently requested a full, fair, independent, impartial, and non-political investigation by law enforcement,” according to WTOP, calling the Republican-led hearing “partisan.”

Protesters gathered Saturday outside the state capitol for a “March on the Mansion” calling for Mr. Northam’s resignation, according to ABC7.