This Week in Statehouse Action edition

  • In the wee hours of Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax issued a statement denying charges of sexual assault that first appeared on a right-wing website—the same site that was the first to publish Northam’s yearbook photo.
    • You see, back in 2017, political science professor Vanessa Tyson told the Washington Post that Fairfax had sexually assaulted her at the 2004 Democratic National Convention—an encounter Fairfax claims was consensual.
      • The Post didn’t report the story at the time because, they say, they couldn’t corroborate Tyson’s account.
    • Fairfax’s denials devolved into attacks on Tyson and other Virginia political figures.
  • On Wednesday, Tyson responded to these attacks by releasing a devastating statement describing her account of the assault in detail.

Also on Wednesday, Attorney General Mark Herring—the next guy in line for the governorship if both Northam and Fairfax were to resign—admitted to wearing blackface at a party in 1980, when he was 19 years old and in college.

  • Herring made his public confession and issued an apology (which was way more compelling than Northam’s) after meeting with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus—many of whose members he served with during his time in the legislature before being elected attorney general in 2013.
    • The caucus has not, as of this writing, called for Herring’s resignation.

If Herring, Fairfax, and Northam were to all resign, the next in line for the governorship is House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox—a Republican who controls the chamber by virtue of an unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered House map and a suspect ballot that threw a 2017 House race to a tie that was broken by literal luck of the draw in favor of the GOP.

Virginians did not elect a Republican governor (or an independent governor, Ralph), and they shouldn’t end up with one because of these scandals.

  • A new governor, yes. But a Democratic governor until it’s time to elect another.

But the mess in Virginia doesn’t qualify as statehouse action just because it’s taking place in the state capitol.

  • This mess has the potential to derail Democrats chances’ of flipping either legislative chamber this fall—a year when they’re otherwise favored to win a majority in both.
    • This fall, Republicans will be running in new, court-ordered House districts where Clinton won 56 of the chamber’s 100 seats (she won 51 on the old map).
      • They current hold just 51 seats.
    • Also, Republicans will be trying to keep three Senate seats Clinton won in 2016 (Democrats need to win just one to control the chamber).
      • They currently hold just 21 of 40 seats.
  • Even if Northam hangs on, he’s poison.
    • It’s difficult to imagine that any Democrat would be willing to accept money from Northam or his leadership PAC, The Way Ahead (which was rumored to be on track to raise and spend in the neighborhood of $6 million to flip the state House and Senate).
    • Some of that money will flow into the House and Senate Democratic caucuses instead, but without a strong party leader to raise that cash, the caucuses are virtually destined to come up short.
  • Oh, and now GOP Sen. leader Tommy Norment has been revealed as managing editor of the Virginia Military Institute’s 1968 yearbook—a tome full of pictures of students in blackface and replete with racial slurs.
    • There’s currently no evidence that Norment is actually in any of the blackface photos or penned any of the racial slurs.
    • He merely approved, published, disseminated, and promoted blackface photos and racial slurs.

Florida, man. Virginia has no monopoly on blackface controversies.

  • A 14-year-old photo of Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini in blackface has surfaced, but the Republican doesn’t plan on heeding Democratic demands that he resign (his GOP brethren are conspicuously silent on the matter thus far).
    • Rather, I should say that the photo has resurfaced.
    • Sabatini insists that his racist blackface totally wasn’t racist.
  • If “Florida” and “blackface” in the same sentence is ringing a bell for you, it’s probably because I wrote in this space just a couple of weeks ago about the state’s freshly-appointed Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigning after a 14-year-old photo of him in blackface surfaced.

hrm

Clever, man. A Republican lawmaker in Utah thinks he’s found a way around that pesky 17th Amendment—at least in cases where a U.S. senator fails to finish out his/her term.

  • jic you don’t have your pocket Constitution handy, that’s the amendment that established the popular election of U.S. senators.
    • Until its ratification in 1913, legislatures selected each state’s U.S. Senate members.

Fun fact! Utah is one of 36 states that fills U.S. Senate vacancies by gubernatorial appointment.

  • Under current law, the political party of the member vacating the seat nominates three possible replacements, and the governor appoints one of them.
  • If Republican Sen. Dan McCay’s bill passes, the legislature will submit one nominee to the governor to fill the vacant seat—functionally reverting the power to pick a U.S. senator back to lawmakers.
    • McCay specifically boasted that his bill “brings us back to what we did before the 17th Amendment and claimed that the measure will make Congress “more responsive to lawmakers back home.”

right because lol who cares about actual voters or the U.S. Constitution

Press, man. Democrats in the Montana legislature are sticking up for beloved British journalist Ben Jacobs—and sticking it to Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.

  • This week, they introduced a bill that would increase the penalty for assaulting a journalist from $500 to a maximum of $5,000 and up to a year in jail.
    • You may recall that Gianforte totally lost his shit over an extremely reasonable question shortly before his 2017 special election and body-slammed Jacobs (who is not, in fact, British, but does report for the the UK’s Guardian).
    • For this egregious crime, he received a $385 fine, 40 hours of community service, and committed to giving Jacobs a one-on-one interview (a provision of the penalty Gianforte has yet to make good on).

Welp, that’s all for this week. If you’re half as worn out from this Virginia garbage as I am, you should go ahead and call it a week, take tomorrow off. Just print this out and show it to your boss, I’m sure she won’t mind.

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