Virginia Dems Silent on Accepting Northam Money

GOP leader Todd Gilbert: 'Now that the heat is off, they're more than willing to cash his checks'

Gov. Ralph Northam / Getty Images
June 12, 2019

Virginia Democrats caught accepting money from Virginia governor Ralph Northam—even after many of them called for him to resign—have remained silent on the contributions, earning sharp critiques from their Republican colleagues.

The contributions from Northam's political action committee to 13 Democratic candidates for the state legislature were discovered by the Washington Free Beacon last Friday. Seven of the 13 candidates who took money from Northam called on him to resign after the photo of a man in blackface standing with a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit was discovered on his medical school yearbook page.

None of the 13 candidates have responded to emails and phone calls regarding the contributions and whether they plan to keep them. The governor's office additionally did not respond to questions on the donations and whether the governor had talked with the candidates who had called on him to resign before sending the donations.

With voters at the polls on Tuesday for the state's legislative primary elections, Republican legislative leaders voiced their astonishment at the Democrat candidates' hypocrisy.

House Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert chided legislative Democrats for taking campaign cash from a governor they called on to resign.

"Hypocrisy like this is the reason that people hate politics," Gilbert told the Washington Free Beacon.

"Democrats came out and took a stand, calling for the governor to resign," Gilbert said. "Now that the heat is off, they're more than willing to cash his checks. Forgiveness shouldn't be for sale."

Republican delegate Nick Freitas, who represents the 30th House of Delegates District, echoed Gilbert's critique, saying Democrats made a "good show for the cameras" condemning Northam.

"All of a sudden, for a cost of about $5,000, everything is okay again," Freitas told a Virginia radio host Tuesday afternoon. "When they have someone engaging in blatant racism, they'll all make a really good show for the cameras for the first few weeks and then after that, it's all about where's the campaign dollars."

Freitas expressed bewilderment during the interview over his colleagues' willingness to accept money from Northam's PAC.

"You would think it'd be easy to say 'I'm going to have the moral consistency and integrity to not accept this funding,'" Freitas said. "I hope he can't buy my colleagues' loyalty back."

Coverage from the Washington Post from Monday evening indicates Northam is quietly attempting to rebuild his political capital with Democrats in the state.

Northam "has emerged from hunkering down in Richmond to resume signing bills in ceremonies around the state," the Post reported. He additionally has taken a more public role in the state's response to a shooting in Virginia Beach last week that killed 12 people.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which originally called on Northam to resign, is reportedly sticking by its calls for resignation, but Delegate Lamont Bagby, head of the caucus, said his group "has a duty to govern even in the face of adversity," expressing a sense of willingness to work with the governor on potential legislative agreements.

When the images first became public knowledge, the Legislative Black Caucus issued multiple strongly worded denunciations of the governor's collegiate yearbook photos, calling the photos "disgusting, reprehensible, and offensive."

"It is clear he can no longer effectively serve as governor," the Feb. 1 statement from the caucus read.

The caucus then released a follow-up statement on Feb. 2 after meeting with the governor, with stronger language calling for his resignation.

"Another moment should not pass before we hear Governor Northam do the honorable thing and resign," the second statement declared.

Margins in both chambers of the Virginia legislature are slim, with Republicans holding a one-vote majority in the state Senate and the House of Delegates heading into this fall's legislative elections. Democrats are hoping to flip both chambers to the Democrats, giving the party full control of state government for the first time since 1993.