Support for Northam withers as Dems urge him to step down

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) saw his support within the commonwealth wither Friday night with mounting calls from members of his own party for him to resign after he admitted to appearing in a racist picture from medical school.

Members of Virginia’s congressional delegation began calling Northam on Friday night and privately urged him to resign, a source familiar with the calls told The Hill. Various national Democratic officials also publicly called for him to step down.

Northam, who entered office last year as Virginia's 73rd governor, initially resisted calls from lawmakers and multiple progressive groups to resign Friday night. He issued a statement and video vowing to make amends for the photo.

But support in the commonwealth continued to collapse late into the evening, with his predecessor Terry McAuliffe saying he should aside, along with the Congressional Black Caucus and Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

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Democrats in Virginia’s state legislature also held an emergency conference call late Friday evening to discuss the escalating crisis, concluding that they can no longer support him, sources told The Hill.

“He will likely resign in the morning,” said a source on the call.

If Northam were to step down, it would mean Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, the second African-American elected to statewide office in Virginia, would become governor, serving serving out the rest of Northam's term until 2021.

The calls for Northam’s resignation were sparked by his acknowledgement that he appeared in a picture in his 1984 medical school yearbook showing a man wearing blackface and another dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe. 

“That horrible photo that Governor Northam chose to publish in his medical school yearbook is racist and deeply offensive. That photograph is not reflective of the man and friend I’ve known for the past six years, but it is also not reflective of someone who should be leading our Commonwealth,” freshman Rep. Jennifer WextonJennifer Lynn WextonPelosi, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez place transgender pride flags outside Capitol Hill offices New Zealand mosque killings raise fears among US Muslims Why block citizenship to immigrants who defend America? MORE (D-Va.) said in a statement.

“I spoke with the Governor tonight, and hope that he will do what is best to allow our Commonwealth to heal moving forward.”

Virginia Rep. A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinDavid Bernhardt confirmed as new Interior chief Overnight Energy: Trump moves to speed up pipeline construction | House Dems urge Senate to reject Interior nominee | Dem offers plan for 'filling in the blanks' of Green New Deal House Dems urge Senate to reject Bernhardt nomination to Interior MORE⁩ (D) joined other members of the Congressional Black Caucus in urging Northam to resign.

“It is never easy to condemn a personal friend, but Governor Northam’s past behavior is indefensible," Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott (D) said in a statement.

Democrats in the Virginia state House also publicly rebuked Northam, leaving the governor with little if any support remaining in Richmond.

“We are having trouble reconciling our experience with Governor Northam with what we see in this photo. The Governor Northam we know is a great friend and ally, who has served and dedicated himself to our Commonwealth and the nation,” they said in a press release.

“However, constituents' trust in their elected officials is paramount. We regret to say that we are no longer confident in the Governor's representation of Virginians. Though it brings us no joy to do so, we must call for Governor Northam's resignation.” 

Northam apologized Friday after The Virginian-Pilot and other outlets began publishing a photo from his yearbook housed in the Eastern Virginia Medical School library. The photo showed two figures: one smiling and in blackface standing alongside another figure in a white hood.

The governor did not say which figure was him, but said he was in the photo.

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” he said in a statement.

The Virginia governor quickly faced a cavalcade of bipartisan calls for his resignation.

“I don’t see the governor’s got any other choice other than to step aside,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), the vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association who is set to lead the national group in 2020, said on MSNBC. 

“The situation that he has put himself and the Commonwealth of Virginia in is untenable. It's time for Ralph to step down, and for the Commonwealth to move forward,” McAuliffe, who left office last year, added in a tweet.

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls called on the Virginia governor to step down in the wake of the photo, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEx-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Pollster says Trump's approval rating in 2020 will be impacted by Dem nominee 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Defense: Reports detail effect of transgender military ban | Watchdog auditing 8 billion submarine program | Warren questions top general on climate change Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 MORE (Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE (N.J), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Trump says he'd like to run against Buttigieg Gillibrand introduces bill to ban harmful pesticide from school lunch MORE (N.Y.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.

The Virginia governor has so far resisted calls for his resignation

“I have spent the past year as your governor fighting for a Virginia that works better for all people. I am committed to continuing that fight through the remainder of my term and living up to the expectations you set for me when you elected me to serve,” Northam said in his video Friday night.

– Scott Wong contributed reporting