By Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider | Washington Post
RICHMOND, Va. – Black lawmakers threatened to scuttle the General Assembly’s budget deal Monday, and staffers resigned from the lieutenant governor’s office as Virginia’s political scandals began affecting the operation of government.
The executive branch seemed frozen in a state of suspended calamity, with its three leaders holding onto office despite widespread calls for resignation and no clear mechanism for moving them out.
An effort to consider impeaching Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax over sexual assault allegations went nowhere as lawmakers pointed out that he denies the charges and that there is no obvious way to commission an investigation.
Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, are under fire for racist incidents from their past, but they have not been accused of crimes that would rise to the level of impeachment. Because Virginia is the only state to prohibit a governor from serving consecutive terms, Northam won’t have to answer to voters again. It’s up to each man to decide his own political fate, and none is budging.
Four staffers working for Fairfax quit on Friday, leaving him with a skeleton crew. Two were from his government office – policy director Adele McClure and scheduler Julia Billingsly – and they were joined by the two employees of his We Rise Together political action committee, David Mills and Courtney McCargo.
Mills, a former executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, is married to state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, the vice chairwoman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which has called on Fairfax to step down. He confirmed his decision to quit but would not elaborate.
McClure, Billingsly and McCargo did not return messages Monday.
“The lieutenant governor’s office is a tiny office,” said Lawrence Roberts, chief of staff for Fairfax. “The governor’s office has 100,000 state employees. The lieutenant governor has four. So half his staff remains, and his two most senior people remain.”
Roberts said the incessant pace of the past two weeks is taking a toll on employees. “The pressure of constant incoming press, political (matters) and calls – our phones ring every five seconds, and just trying to clear your voicemail is impossible,” he said.
The staffers left for individual reasons not related to Fairfax’s performance or abilities, he said. They were were valuable but could be replaced “if we have the time and space to make intelligent decisions,” he said.
The departures were first reported by Richmond Times Dispatch.
Fairfax has been accused by two women of sexual assaults in 2000 and 2004, and he strongly denies both allegations. He has called for an investigation, but he otherwise continued with his usual duties Monday of presiding over the Senate.
“Due process is at the heart of our constitutional democracy in order to get to the truth and be true to what we are as Americans. . . . Everyone deserves to be heard,” Fairfax said Sunday night in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Even when faced with those allegations, I am still standing up …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Politics