WASHINGTON — As Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam resisted calls to resign over a racist photo that appeared under his name in his medical school year book, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax remains in the wings as the man who would replace him if Northam were to step down.
Northam denied on Saturday that he was either person in a photograph that showed one person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. The governor said he had “darkened’ his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume in 1984, however.
While Northam apologized and asked for forgiveness on Saturday, he also noted that he maintained a good relationship with Fairfax, who would be America’s fifth-ever black governor were he to take Northam’s place.
“Justin and I have a very, very close relationship,” Northam said at the press conference Saturday. “He has been very supportive … he is a wonderful person.”
On Saturday, Fairfax released a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the images that appeared in Northam’s yearbook.
“The Governor needed to apologize, and I am glad that he did so,” Fairfax said. “He also reached out to me personally to express his sincere regrets and to apologize.”
He added that the two have worked closely for many years. “He has been a friend to me and has treated my family and me with hospitality and respect,” Fairfax said.
Fairfax said despite Northam’s career of service to American children, soldiers and constituents, he could not condone the governor’s actions from his past.
“Now more than ever, we must make decisions in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he concluded.
Fairfax, 39, was only the second African-American elected statewide in Virginia when he won the post alongside Northam in 2017.
The Duke and Columbia-educated lawyer has been a rising star in the party since making his first run for office 2013, after serving as a federal prosecutor in the high-profile Eastern District of Virginia.
Fairfax lost that first campaign for attorney general in a Democratic primary, but…