With a governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all mired in potentially career-ending political scandals, the next leader of Virginia may have been picked by a ceramic bowl in January, 2018, Fox News reports. Here’s how that could happen, theoretically.
First, Governor Ralph Northam leaves the governorship one way or another in response to a blackface photograph that he included in his medical school yearbook, which surfaced recently. Per Virginia law, Northam’s vacancy would be filled by the lieutenant governor, in this case Justin Fairfax.
That is, unless Fairfax also step down in light of a recently reinvigorated sexual assault allegation from 2004, which has now put the lieutenant governor’s political future in jeopardy as well.
Congratulations, such as they would be, would then be extended to the commonwealth’s attorney general, Mark Herring. Herring, however, may throw a wrench into Virginia’s diligent gubernatorial succession planning with his admission that, like his boss, he too has spent time in blackface, as part of a rapper costume at a college party in 1980.
In this scenario, it could be possible that Virginia’s top three Democrats could each vacate their positions, ostensibly in unison. Democratic Party leaders in Virginia have already begun to pressure Northam for a resignation and have indicated that the allegations against Fairfax are indeed serious. The extent of any fallout from Herring’s blackface admission is not yet clear.
In the long-shot event that all of the above actually occurs, succession would pass the governorship from Democratic hands to the Republicans by way of the position next in line: speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Enter Kirk Cox, a man whose unlikely potential path to the governor’s mansion might not even be the strangest circumstances by which he landed a political office.
Cox’s position as speaker is contingent on his party maintaining a majority in the legislature, which he and his Republican colleagues currently hold by only the slimmest of margins.
The Republicans’ one-seat majority at one point came down to the race between three-term incumbent Republican David Yancey and Democratic challenger Shelley Simonds. Yancey and Simonds, after counting more than 23,000 votes — were tied.
At 11,608 a piece, the contest was decided during a Virginia elections board meeting. Each candidate’s name was placed in a film canister and the canisters were placed in a ceramic bowl crafted by a ceramicist from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
The winning canister was selected and Yancey’s name was pulled out, reclaiming the Republican majority and placing Kirk Cox fourth in the line of succession, an honor generally considered inconsequential, at least until now.