‘We’re pretty pleased': Northam’s work to bolster racial equity praised

‘We’re pretty pleased': Northam’s work to bolster racial equity praised
Gov. Ralph Northam outlined a package of proposed funding increases for schools that includes an additional 2 percent raise for teachers. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Dec. 11, 2018)

Defying calls for his resignation in the wake of his blackface scandal, Gov. Ralph Northam pledged to dedicate the remainder of his term to issues of racial equity. And his legislative amendments and vetoes, due Tuesday at midnight, gave him a concrete opportunity to turn words into action.

Some lawmakers and observers say he made good on his promise.

At the same time, the bigger picture that emerged over the past week was that of a man doing less to position himself as a “healer in chief” and more establishing himself as a walking, talking, fully functional governor. The kind who, for instance, appears in public with other lawmakers without having to dodge awkward questions and calls for him to step down.

“He’s used these amendments to address the broad policy issues one would expect from governors,” says veteran political analyst Bob Holsworth. “He’s acting like a normal governor, and that’s where he needs to be, because I just don’t think it’s in his DNA to be the person leading a statewide discussion on racial equity. He doesn’t do that well.”

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, credited Northam for his work.

“A number of those are directly from our agenda,” he said. “So we’re pretty pleased with that.”