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By Ben Kamisar
WASHINGTON — Top Congressional Black Caucus members said Sunday that Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam “has to resign” in the wake of his shifting explanations for a racist photo that appeared on his medical school yearbook page.
Appearing on Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the chairwoman of the CBC and Virginia Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin said Northam’s answers have only made the situation more untenable since the photo, which shows one man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe, became public on Friday.
“He has lost the authority to lead, he’s lost the authority to govern. He has to resign,” McEachin said. “It’s in the best interest of the commonwealth, it’s in the best interest of the party.”
Bass criticized Northam as “completely dishonest and disingenuous” and dismissed the idea that by staying in office, Northam is forcing a conversation on race.
“He’s forcing the wrong conversation. What he should do is resign, and if he has any integrity at all, he should participate in that conversation,” she said.
Their calls echoed Democratic figures across the country who have called for the governor to resign since the photo surfaced.
The governor initially apologized “for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo” hours after the 1984 yearbook photos surfaced.
But during a stunning Saturday press conference, Northam said that upon further reflection he realized he was not in the photo at all. He did admit that he once used shoe polish to darken his face while portraying Michael Jackson in a dance contest.
Bass said that Northam’s performance at the press conference only reinforced her belief he should resign.
“He even acted at the press conference like he was willing to moonwalk until his wife stopped him, which shows he still does not understand the seriousness of his actions,” she said.
And Bass pushed back on Northam’s defense that he’s been solid on racial issues during his career in politics, arguing that he “backtracked” on his commitment to tearing down Confederate monuments in the state during his gubernatorial bid.
In the hours after Northam faced the press, Virginia Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez and L. Douglas Wilder, the first black governor of Virginia, all called on the governor to quit.
Previously, groups and individuals including the Virginia Democratic Party, a handful of Democratic presidential candidates, the president of the NAACP and the state Republican Party all called for his resignation.
If Northam ultimately resigns, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is black, will take over as governor. While Virginia imposes a one-term limit on their governor, Fairfax would be allowed to run again in 2021 because he would not have been elected by Virginians to a full term.
Brexit Party warns MPs trying to block UK leaving EU 'we're coming for your seats'
NIGEL FARAGE’s Brexit Party have warned they will battle to unseat no deal scuppering MPs plotting to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum and stop Britain leaving the EU by deliberately targeting their seats.
Gary Lineker offers to stand as interim Prime Minister to stop 'crooked' Brexit
Frightened kids ask candidates to protect them from school shooters
NEWTON, Iowa — The moments happen all across the country. Tiny faces, peering out from behind their parents, or timidly accepting a microphone as the room falls silent. They make eye contact with a larger-than-life presidential candidate and ask: Can you keep me safe at school? Can you stop the shootings?
The questions from children have become a hallmark of the 2020 presidential campaign, with nearly every candidate facing some version of the same emotional query.
Perhaps Sen. Cory Booker was looking for a softball question when he called on 8-year-old Scout Maloney at a town-hall-event in Nashua, New Hampshire, last month. That isn’t what he got.
“What do you plan to do about school shootings?” Scout asked, telling Booker, D-N.J., that she and her brother are home-schooled in part because their parents fear they could become the victims of gun violence.
Booker told Maloney — and her parents — that he believes his is the strongest plan among the 2020 field to stop mass shootings, saying it would require national licensing and registration of firearms. He also added a personal touch.
“I get very tired, Scout, and I get angry,” he said, “because I’m a person of faith, and I hear these people coming up with thoughts and prayers, but I was taught faith without works is dead.”
In Scout’s case, her parents also attended the event, and encouraged their daughter to ask the question. In some cases, older students are members of advocacy groups, like Every Town for Gun Safety.
In the days after a mass shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus in April, school safety was top of mind for middle school student Milan Underberg, who broke down while questioning Beto O’Rourke when he visited her classroom here in Newton.
“I’m afraid that one day I’ll go to school and I’ll never come out. … I’m sorry,” she said, pausing to collect herself and then continuing through tears. “What actions will you take to protect people like me and my classmates from this happening?”
Sometimes, it is the candidates themselves who are overcome with emotion. That was the case with businessman Andrew Yang last week in Des Moines, Iowa, when a question about one twin watching another get shot on a playground caused him to think about his own young children.
“I have a 6- and 3-year-old boy,” Yang said, choking up. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it. I can’t do it. I’m so sorry.”
The candidates often respond to the questions with similar policy prescriptions: expanding background checks and “red flag” laws, banning the sale of assault-style weapons or proposing programs to buy them back. But the candidates also reflect much of themselves back at the questioner.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pivoted quickly to policy when children in Ohio and Michigan asked her about shootings. And former Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his first wife and their daughter in a car crash and his eldest son to brain cancer, shared his own experience with grief, and the desire it creates to fight for something better.
“I understand what it’s like to lose a kid,” Biden told a high school student in Iowa last week. “I’ve lost two of them. The fact of the matter is, your generation understands this better than anybody, and that’s why it’s going to change. It’s going to change. You’re the best educated, the most open, the most inclusive generation in American history, and you’ve decided no more. I promise you, I promise you it’s going to change in large part because of you.”
Julia Jester, Kailani Koenig, Marianna Sotomayor, Benjamin Pu and Ali Vitali contributed.
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