Va. GOP Blasts Dems for Refusing to Attend Commemoration with Trump

‘It’s disappointing … that Democrats would put politics ahead of this historic occasion’

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam / Getty Images
July 22, 2019

Republican state legislators in Virginia criticized their Democratic counterparts over the weekend after they announced their intention to skip a commemoration event upon learning President Trump may be in attendance.

Reports surfaced Friday night that President Trump may accept an invitation from Democratic governor Ralph Northam to join the July 30 festivities to recognize the 400th anniversary of the gathering of the House of Burgesses, considered to be the first meeting of representative government in the United States.

In a joint statement Friday night, Senate minority leader Dick Saslaw and House minority leader Eileen Filler-Corn declared their intentions to boycott the event and said President Trump "does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world."

"It's disappointing, but not at all unexpected, that Democrats would put politics ahead of this historic occasion," House majority leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon Saturday in response. "The continued hypocrisy demonstrated by Democrats this year is stunning."

Gilbert noted Democrats who had called on Northam to resign after a racist photo of an individual in a KKK robe and another in blackface was found on his yearbook page are now accepting campaign contributions from him. The Free Beacon was the first to report that the governor had resumed doling out political contributions to many of these state legislative Democratic incumbents and candidates.

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe also tweeted his displeasure about the possibility of President Trump attending the ceremonies.

"Racists and white nationalists have no place in the Commonwealth of Virginia," McAuliffe said on Friday night, retweeting the message from the Democratic legislative leaders.

"No Democrat has refused to attend the commemoration with Northam, despite insisting there's no room for racism at this commemoration," Gilbert added.

Senate majority leader Tommy Norment described the Democrats' protests of Trump's potential appearance as "disappointing and embarrassing," and said he would have been honored if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) had accepted a similar invitation to speak at the event.

Norment and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, both Republicans, joined with Governor Northam to invite both President Trump and Speaker Pelosi to the event. Norment, like Gilbert, suggested Democrats' willingness to reappear with Northam after his yearbook scandal shows they should be willing to differentiate between appearing with an elected official and offering their support for that same individual.

"Sharing the views of the leader holding an elected office is not a prerequisite for showing respect for the office," Norment said.

Northam's office, which joined with Norment and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox to invite Trump and Speaker Pelosi, declined to weigh in on whether the president should attend, according to the Washington Post.

Congressional Democrats like Virginia representatives Jennifer Wexton and Elaine Luria said they still intended to attend the commemoration events despite the protestations of their Democratic state legislative counterparts. Both of Virginia's Democratic U.S. senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, said they too still planned on joining the ceremonies even though they will not be participating in the event President Trump is reported to be attending.