Poll: Virginia split on whether Gov. Ralph Northam should resign; he insists, 'I'm not going anywhere'




 

Gov. Ralph Northam vowed to remain in office Sunday while Virginians appeared split on whether the besieged Democrat should resign.

"I have thought about resigning, but I've also thought about what Virginia needs right now," Northam told CBS's "Face the Nation." "Virginia also needs someone who is strong, who has empathy, who has courage and who has a moral compass. And that's why I'm not going anywhere."

Northam was clinging to his job amid indications that he might not be forced out if he refuses to quit amid the firestorm that began over racist yearbook photos from more than three decades ago.

Northam spoke a day after a poll conducted by the Washington Post and George Mason University showed 47 percent of Virginians want Northam to resign and 47 percent believe he should not. Six percent had no opinion.

The survey also showed strong support among African Americans, with 58 percent expressing support while 37 percent wanted him out. White voters said he should step down by a narrow, 48-46 margin.

More than half of Republicans - 56 percent - thought Northam should go, while only 40 percent of Democrats agreed.

The poll surveyed 706 Virginia adults last week and has a margin of error of 4.5 points.

Northam told "Face the Nation" that his state has a "unique opportunity" to bring about meaningful change in the face of scandal. The commonwealth is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year.

"I'm a leader. I've been in some very difficult situations. Life and death situations, taking care of sick children," Northam said. " And right now, Virginia needs someone that can heal. There's no better person to do that than a doctor."

Northam was asked about whether his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, should resign. Days after Northam's blackface controversy began, two women accused Fairfax of sexual assault in the early 2000s. Fairfax denied the allegations, called for an FBI investigation, and said he won't resign.

Northam said it took "tremendous courage" for the women to come forward.

"These accusations are very, very serious. They need to be taken seriously," Northam said. "And if these accusations are determined to be true, I don't think he's going to have any other option but to resign."

More: 'Sick, deeply toxic' culture: Ralph Northam hails from a time of troubled race relations in Virginia, US

The furor surrounding Northam began 10 days ago, when a photo from his page in his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced. The photo showed one person in blackface, another in Ku Klux Klan robes.

Northam initially apologized for being in the yearbook photo, but the next day, he said he did not believe he is in the "racist" photo. He did admit to wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume he wore for a dance contest in Texas in the early 1980s.

Northam spoke to the Post on Saturday, sidestepping calls for his resignation and promising to spend the rest of his time in office focused on mending racial tensions.

"It's obvious from what happened this week that we still have a lot of work to do. There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia, and especially in the area of equity," Northam said, citing education, health care, homeownership and entre­pre­neur­ship. "And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia ... and so we're ready to learn from our mistakes."

Northam also said he was planning a "reconciliation" tour across the state to talk with constituents about what happened and address the issue of race.

Contributing: Christal Hayes

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Poll: Virginia split on whether Gov. Ralph Northam should resign; he insists, 'I'm not going anywhere'

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