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Timeline: Virginia political scandals continue to pile on

February 7, 2019
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FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a news conference in the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va. Northam clung to his office Tuesday, Feb. 5, amid intense political fallout over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook and uncertainty about the future of the state's government. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — All three of Virginia’s top elected officials are now mired in their own separate scandals, causing some to question whether any of the three Democrats are fit to lead the state.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is facing an accusation of sexual assault , is in line to become governor if Gov. Ralph Northam resigns over a racist yearbook photo. If Northam and Fairfax fall, Attorney Mark Herring would be next in line to govern. On Wednesday, Herring admitted that he wore blackface as a college student . After Herring comes House Speaker Kirk Cox, a conservative Republican.

Here is a timeline of what led to this point.

ABORTION BACKLASH

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was accused by prominent Republicans of supporting infanticide because of comments he made about late-term abortions in which the infant is severely deformed or unable to survive after birth.

The Democratic governor and pediatric neurologist was defending efforts to loosen abortion restrictions during a Jan. 30 radio interview when described a hypothetical situation where a severely deformed newborn infant could be left to die.

Northam denies advocating for infanticide and said he was trying to answer a question from a medical perspective.

PHOTO UNCOVERED

Hours after a conservative news outlet first reported there is a racist photo on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, Virginia’s governor on Friday apologized and acknowledged that he appears in the photo.

The photo in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School shows two people looking at the camera — one in blackface wearing a hat, bow tie and plaid pants; the other in white Klan robes.

By late Friday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus had called for Northam to resign, as had several Democratic presidential candidates.

NORTHAM’S DENIAL

Backtracking from his previous statements, Northam held a news conference in which he said he was “convinced” he is not in the racist photo on his yearbook page.

Despite calls for his resignation growing, Northam on Saturday vowed to stay in office.

At the same news conference, Northam acknowledged putting on blackface decades ago to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest. And at one point, he seemed as if he might do the moonwalk for reporters before his wife intervened.

YEARBOOK TIPSTER

A “concerned citizen” upset by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent comments on abortion legislation tipped off a conservative news site about a racist yearbook photo now threatening the governor’s career, the site’s editor said Monday.

The site’s editor-in-chief, Patrick Howley, said in an interview Monday that the tipster was “absolutely not a political operative, absolutely not — just a concerned citizen” but declined to elaborate on their identity.

A #METOO ACCUSATION

If Northam stepped down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would be the second African-American governor in Virginia’s history.

His supporters have touted him as a fresh face whose charisma has allowed him to connect with voters. His detractors suggest he is unproven and inexperienced.

On Monday, Fairfax was drawn into a controversy of his own. He denied an allegation of sexual assault first reported by a conservative website, calling it a “smear.” Fairfax said the 2004 encounter with a woman was consensual.

HERRING’S ADMISSION

Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement Wednesday morning admitting he wore blackface in 1980 to look like a rapper during a party when he was a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia.

Herring had previously called on Northam to resign and was planning to run for governor himself in 2021. He apologized for his “callous” behavior and said that the days ahead “will make it clear whether I can or should continue to serve.”

ACCUSER GOES PUBLIC

A California woman went public with her sexual assault accusation against Fairfax on Wednesday, saying in a statement that she came forward in part because of the possibility that Fairfax could succeed Northam.

Vanessa Tyson, a 42-year-old political science professor, said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 during the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Earlier Wednesday, Fairfax issued a statement saying the woman expressed no discomfort at the time, or during the years afterward.

The Associated Press typically does not identify those who say they were sexually assaulted, but Tyson issued the statement in her name.

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