Watch CBS News

Future uncertain for top Virginia Democrats amid several scandals

Future uncertain for Va. Democrats
Future uncertain for top Virginia Democrats amid several scandals 03:29

Richmond, Va. — First, it was Virginia's governor. Then, the lieutenant governor. Now the state attorney general. The top three leaders in the state are all facing scandal.

Attorney General Mark Herring admitted Wednesday he once wore blackface at a college party.

Virginia Democratic lawmakers were in no mood to discuss the latest scandal to rock Richmond.

As an undergraduate in 1980, he said in a statement, he and friends went to a party as rappers.

"We dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup," Herring said. "I have a glaring example from my past that I have thought about with deep regret in the many years since."

When word reached the statehouse, there were audible gasps and expletives from staffers.

(L-R) Virginia State Attorney General Mark Herring, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Getty/AP

Lamont Bagby, the head of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, reacted.

"Like I said, we're not praying enough," he said.

The scandal rocketed all the way up to Washington.

"I'm shocked and incredibly disappointed," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia. "This has been an awful week for Virginia."

Wednesday's bombshell comes days after Herring called for Gov. Ralph Northam to resign over a racist photo — including a man in blackface — that was discovered on his medical school yearbook page.

"I am not either of the people in that photo," Northam said Saturday.

Northam's former classmates "fully believe" he is not in racist photo 01:55

After that news conference, Herring had said "it is no longer possible" for the governor to lead Virginia.

The governor remains out of sight as he contemplates his political future. He is meeting with black leaders and may hire a private investigator to prove it's not him in the photo.

Then there's Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who's facing an allegation of sexual assault during 2004's Democratic National Convention. On Wednesday, his accuser, Vanessa Tyson, released a lengthy statement saying she's a Democrat and is sharing her story with "tremendous anguish."

She said she had gone to Fairfax's hotel room to "retrieve documents" and after consensual kissing, "Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him." Fairfax has repeatedly denied the allegation, saying while "no one makes charges of this kind lightly ... I cannot agree with a description of events that I know is not true ... reading Dr. Tyson's account is painful. I have never done anything like what she suggests."

Virginia's 3 top elected officials caught in controversies 04:28

As all three men consider their next steps, Virginia's line of succession states if Northam steps down, Fairfax would take over; then Herring. Next in line is Republican Kirk Cox, speaker of the statehouse, where the GOP has a one-seat majority.

In a twist worthy of the movies, the race for that one seat ended in a tie and was decided when the name of the Republican winner was pulled out of a ceramic bowl.

Democrats had hoped to take back the Legislature in the midterm elections last fall, but all of this could put that in jeopardy.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.