Virginia congressional Democrats hint at path for easing political crisis

Virginia state Sen. Tommy Norment

A second woman has come forward to accuse Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of rape as Virginia's state Democratic leadership is enveloped in scandal.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax addresses the media in response to Gov. Ralph Northam's statement on February 2.

The firm, New Jersey-based Smith Mullin, said Watson was "not seeking any financial damages", and said her attorneys had notified Fairfax through his lawyers "that Ms. Watson hopes he will resign from public office".

The political crisis in Virginia threatens to turn a state that has trended Democratic back into a battleground, a development that could complicate the party's effort to defeat President Donald Trump next year.

The statement went on to call for the resignation of Fairfax. McAuliffe seconded the sentiment in a tweet.

Trump's taunt ignores his own history of sexual assault allegations and his contorted relationship with race, including when he insisted after a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were "very fine people on both sides" of an encounter that left a counterprotester dead. "I will not resign", he said in a statement, calling for a full investigation and noting he has already passed FBI background checks.

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Numerous state's Democrats have called on Northam to step down over the yearbook photo, which shows one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan attire.

"This is the second serious sexual assault allegation leveled against the Lieutenant Governor in the past week", Wilson said.

His disclosure stirred an outcry across partisan lines in Virginia, a key swing state in U.S. presidential politics whose seat of government, Richmond, is in many ways still grappling with its legacy as the former capital of the Confederacy during the American Civil War.

Fairfax denied the allegation and said in a statement: "I will not resign".

All House Democrats from Virginia have also called for Fairfax to step down, with the exception of Rep. Bobby Scott. The black caucus also called for an investigation of the Fairfax case, and said the attorney general must take more actions to "reassure" the state he is fit to lead.

A Virginia Military Institute yearbook overseen by future state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment in 1968 features a host of racist photos and slurs, including blackface.

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Fairfax is already facing allegations that he sexually assaulted California politics professor Vanessa Tyson in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

Fairfax quickly denied the claim. Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have admitted wearing blackface as young men in the 1980s.

Northam immediately apologized for appearing in the photograph, saying he could not "undo the harm my behavior caused then and today".

By the way, as Ed noted earlier, all three of the stooges at the top of Virginia's government look likely to survive now.

On Saturday, though, the governor reversed course and said he wasn't in the picture.

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