Will a Republican Become Virginia Governor?

Who will be Governor of Virginia if Democrat office-holders resign are removed, or “disqualified”?  Will a Republican now become Governor after Democrats swept all statewide elected offices in 2017?

The Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates may well change jobs in the near future.  Virginia’s Speaker is Kirkland (“Kirk”) M. Cox (R-VA-66) — seen above, from his campaign website.  The extraordinary train wreck unfolding in the top leadership of the Commonwealth has prompted questions about the lines of succession for Virginia’s leadership.

Any of Virginia’s officers can be removed from office by impeachment under Article IV, Section 17, of the Virginia Constitution, in a procedure identical to that in the U.S. Constitution.

Article V, Section 16, of the Constitution of Virginia (amended in November 2004) also allows removal:

  • The Attorney General, President pro tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Delegates can declare that the Governor is no longer able to serve, and then the Lt. Governor immediately becomes Acting Governor.
  • Or if a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly makes such declaration, the same result occurs.

Virginia also allows a rarely-used ‘recall’ procedure under Va. Code § 24.2-233 upon conviction for certain crimes or “for neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office.”   However, this is very difficult.  A recall requires a “petition … signed by a number of registered voters … equal to ten percent of the total number of votes cast at the last election for the office that the officer holds.”

Justin Fairfax’s problem is the worst.  Fairfax has been accused by Vanessa Tyson of sexual manhandling in a Boston, Massachusetts, hotel room in 2004 during the Democrat National Convention.  Virginia’s Lt. Governor could actually be indicted and criminally prosecuted in Massachusetts.  Upon conviction of a felony, Fairfax could be removed under Va. Code § 24.2-231.

The problem with sexual assault, of course, in the hands of gender-war activists is that it is vague and ill-defined.  But what Vanessa Tyson describes in graphic detail — if proven true — is a serious felony.  Tyson admits that she met with Fairfax in a hotel room voluntarily and began to enjoy amorous activities willingly with him. Then the experience degenerated into forcible oral sex.

Bottom line:  The statute of limitations for the felony crime of forcible oral sex (as a variety of rape) in Massachusetts is 10 years (when not involving a child).  Thus, the statute of limitations for the accusations against Justin Fairfax expired in the Summer of 2014.

However, Massachusetts law also very expensive rules for “tolling” the statute of limitations clock.  Massachusetts precedents clearly say that the time during which a defendant is outside of Massachusetts, the clock stops running.  See:  Commonwealth v. Joyner, 86 Mass.App.Ct. 1115, 17 N.E.3d 1119 (Mass. App., 2014).  (Normally the time is tolled only if a defendant is willfully hiding from justice, not just absent from the jurisdiction.)  (Furthermore, a defendant can lose the defense of the limitations period if it is not properly asserted.)

Massachusetts law governs.  This author — a Virginia attorney — found Massachusetts statutes and precedents maddeningly disorganized and convoluted as one would expect from a left-wing Democrat State.  But after hours of frustrating legal research, it is clear that the definition of rape in Massachusetts  under G.L. c. 265, § 22 has been interpreted and expanded to include forcible oral sex within the meaning of unnatural sexual intercourse, one type of rape.  See Com. v. Gallant, 373 Mass. 577, 583-584, 369 N.E.2d 707 (1977).  Com. v. Rahilly, 410 N.E.2d 1223, 10 Mass.App.Ct. 911 (Mass. App., 1980). (In other States it might fall under sexual assault but rape could be defined differently.  Please recognize that I am sparing the reader some details where possible.)

Therefore, there is at least a remote possibility that Lt. Governor Fairfax could actually be prosecuted.   Of course, as far as we know, there is only disputed accounts between the only two people involved.  But the accusations do potentially involve a felony.  Perhaps the woman is mis-remembering over time or exaggerating.  But this is more than just offensive choices in dance routines and costumes.

That puts a severe damper on Justin Fairfax prospects for continuing to serve in Virginia.  Although Fairfax vehemently disputes Tyson’s version of events, it may be difficult for him to remain in office.

As a result, Attorney General Herring would become Lt. Governor.  That would leave the AG spot open and most likely make Cox Acting Attorney General.

Article V, Section 16, dictates how Virginia’s leadership offices are filled if there is a vacancy.  One should recall that after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, renewed concerns about losing government officials in a terrorist attack led to a enhancements of disaster procedures.  As a Virginia attorney I will try to summarize.  Section 16 is wordy but in this attorney’s opinion incomplete and inadequate.  Nevertheless:

  • If the Governor (Ralph Northam) resigns or becomes unable to serve, the Lt. Governor (Justin Fairfax) becomes Governor.
  • If the Governor is temporarily unable to serve, the Lt. Governor becomes Acting Governor until the disability has passed.
  • If the Lt. Governor resigns or becomes unable to serve, the Attorney General (Mark Herring) becomes Lt. Governor — whether or not there is any change in the Governor’s office — leaving the Attorney General’s spot empty.
  • Presumably, given that the Speaker is in the line of succession to become Governor and is not otherwise provided for, it would seem that Speaker Cox would move up to Attorney General if Mark Herring moved up, leaving no Attorney General.

A wild series of events — like the judgment of God — exploded when Delegate Kathy Tran tried to get a bill passed allowing abortion of a baby up to the moment of delivery.  The questioning of Tran by conservative Republican Majority leader Todd Gilbert went viral nationwide.  Majority Leader Gilbert asked Tran in an otherwise routine committee hearing if her bill would allow terminating a baby’s life during birth, even as the mother is “dilating” — that is, the baby’s head is beginning to be born.  Tran answered yes, her bill would allow a baby to be killed even during birth.

Governor Ralph Northam, formerly a pediatrician, decided that just wasn’t horrible enough and went on the radio advocating for a doctor deciding with the mother whether to kill the baby even after it was born.  This follows the law just passed in New York and those proposed in Vermont and Rhode Island which also would permit the killing of a baby up to the moment of or during birth.

Then Patrick Howley of Big League Politics broke one of the nation’s biggest political stories of 2019 so far by publishing Governor Northam’s medical school yearbook, in which Northam chose to include a photograph of himself dressed up as a Black slave field hand, complete with black face (no, not ending there), along with what appears to be his date (shorter) wearing a Klu Klux Klan white sheet outfit.

Northam’s stupid yearbook page might be forgettable except that Democrats are desperate to falsely smear President Donald Trump and all Republicans as racist.  They are banking on false charges of racism for their strategy for the 2020 elections.  The Democrats’ lust for 2020 demands a human sacrifice, and that means Northam has to go.

Attorney General Mark Herring, a charismatic Democrat from Loudoun County who usually has killer political instincts, inexplicably decided to join the “fun” and throw himself on the funeral pyre by admitting — when nobody was talking about Herring at all — that he also had appeared in blackface costumes at 19 years old.  Herring — normally a very clever political animal — seems to have misunderstood the concept of the #MeToo movement.  Herring resigned from the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

Speaker Cox was first elected to Virginia’s House District 66 in 1989.  During his 30 years in Virginia’s General Assembly, before becoming Speaker, Kirk served as Majority Leader from 2010 to 2018, and Majority Whip before that.

The Virginia General Assembly is described as “the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.”  Its beginning is claimed to start in the ill-fated settlement of Jamestown on July 30, 1619 by instructions from the Virginia Company of London.

Some Virginia conservatives active in conservative campaigns like Corey Stewart’s consider Speaker Cox a big-government liberal — or Republican In Name Only (RINO) — quick to surrender to Democrats and unwilling to fight for the Republican agenda.  Cox, 61 years old, helped preside over the Commonwealth’s disastrous slide to the Democrat party, which started with the Republican establishment’s sabotage of the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Lt. Col. Oliver North in 1994.

Conservative sources cite Cox siding with Democrats during the legislative fight over expanding Medicaid — which most Virginia Republicans consider to be the worst example of an unaffordable expansion of government which will bankrupt the Commonwealth.  Majority Leader Gilbert reportedly spent weeks fighting with Cox against capitulating to the Democrats.

Attorney General Mark Herring, close-up of photo from his website campaigning for Attorney General

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