Democrats Have Found Their Unifying Issue: Calling for Northam to Resign

All of the Virginia governor’s allies have abandoned him after a racist photo surfaced.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam prepares to address a press conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Steve Helber/AP Photo

Democrats may be fractured on Medicare-for-all and foreign policy, but one thing has united them: a push for Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, to resign.

Party leaders rushed to condemn Northam after news broke about his appearance in a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. Northam issued an apology for appearing in the photo, which featured a man in blackface along with another in a Klan robe, and indicated he planned to stay in office. But public opinion quickly turned against him. 

Presidential contenders Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro all called for Northam’s resignation, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who’s also considering running.

Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), with whom Northam served as lieutenant governor, also called on him to resign, saying, “This has been a heartbreaking day. Ralph Northam is my friend and he served well as my Lt. Governor and as Governor. His actions on display in this photo were racist, unacceptable and inexcusable at any age and any time. 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.”

In Virginia, the full Democratic caucuses of both the state house and senate have called on Northam to step down, leaving him without a single important supporter in his bid to remain in office. 

If Northam resigns, he will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a descendant of slaves who would become only the second black governor in Virginia’s history. 


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.