Virginia Democrats and Republicans—along with pretty much everyone else of note not named Joe Lieberman—agree: Gov. Ralph Northam must go. There’s been little mercy for the Democratic governor after a conservative website revealed Friday that his medical school yearbook page featured a photograph of someone in blackface and someone else wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. (Northam denies dressing in either of the racist costumes; he has, however, admitted to wearing blackface while dressing as Michael Jackson for a dance party.)
The problem? Northam says he plans to serve out the remainder of his term, and there’s little if anything that state lawmakers can do to force him out. According to legal and political scholars, Virginia’s state Constitution provides only two paths to removing a governor from power, neither of which seem to apply to the discovery of a decades-old racist photograph. Indeed, Virginia Republicans, who hold a narrow advantage in both legislative chambers, have already said they have no plans to use either to oust Northam. “I think there’s a rightful hesitation about removal from office because obviously you have to consider that to some degree you’re overturning an election,” House Speaker Kirk Cox told reporters Monday morning.