The head of Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus said he wants to take Gov. Ralph Northam at his word — that it is not Northam pictured in a racist photo appearing in his 1984 medical school yearbook.
But Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, is still calling for Northam to resign, even after he watched Northam's Saturday afternoon news conference in which the governor denied he was either of two people in a photo that appears on his senior yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School.
"I understand him biding a little bit of time — there may be reasons for that,” Bagby said outside the capitol.
But now it's time for him to move aside.
“The people of the Commonwealth are crying out to turn the corner,” Bagby said.
Describing him as a close personal friend, Bagby reiterated what he has said on the House floor: That the black legislative caucus does not have permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.
“Right now he’s hurting our interests,” Bagby said.
Virginia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle continued to call for Northam to resign despite the governor's claim he isn't in the photo.
“Virginia needs a governor we can be confident in, and I am disappointed that he did not (resign),” Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, wrote on Twitter. "I hope he reconsiders his decision and does right thing for all Virginians.”
Reached by phone late Saturday afternoon, Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, said she has lost her confidence in the governor.
“It is difficult for me to believe anything else he’s saying about this issue,” she said.
When asked if he should be given a chance based off what he said Saturday, Lucas said, “He had a chance to show us who he is before he ever ran for governor.”
“It was so deceptive to go into this knowing you had this in your background,” she said. “He expected the public to put their trust in him, but now he’s proving he was never trustworthy. I’m sorry, he can’t whitewash this thing. He must resign.”
Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez spoke with Northam Saturday morning. In a statement released after Northam's press conference, Perez said the people of Virginia “deserve better from their leaders.”
“It it clear that Ralph Northam has lost their trust and his ability to govern,” the statement said. “The Democratic Party believes that diversity is our greatest strength and that hatred and racism have no place in our democracy. And we will never hesitate to hold accountable people who violate those values, regardless of their party affiliation.”
Perhaps the strongest rebuke came from U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine along with U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, all Virginia Democrats.
"After we watched his press conference today, we called Governor Northam to tell him that we no longer believe he can effectively serve as Governor of Virginia and that he must resign," the three wrote in a joint statement. "Governor Northam has served the people of the Commonwealth faithfully for many years, but the events of the past 24 hours have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders. He should step down and allow the Commonwealth to begin healing.”
Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, said in a phone call he still wants the governor to resign and stands with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
“Growing up in Virginia, we have had to deal with the ghosts of profound racism, abuse and suffering,” he said. “And we have to recognize the pain that so many of our citizens feel on a daily basis. There is no time and there is no place in which wearing blackface or wearing a Klan robe was or is acceptable.”
He said the state needed time to heal, and that Northam’s resignation, with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax taking over, would be better for everyone.
“We need to have a direct and real conversation about the legacy of racism and slavery in this Commonwealth," he said. "Having leadership that was not a participant in that legacy is important, and I know that Justin Fairfax can lead us to a point of healing.”