Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder this week said voters “deserve answers” from gubernatorial nominee and fellow Democrat Terry McAuliffe about seemingly withdrawing his condemnation of party leaders for wearing blackface.
Mr. Wilder, the nation’s first Black governor, accused the candidate of reversing his criticism of current Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats who in 2019 were revealed to have worn blackface years ago at high school and college parties, respectively.
Mr. Wilder also spoke to Mr. McAuliffe’s resignation calls against Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax for a series of sexual assault accusations in 2019, all of which Mr. Fairfax vehemently denied.
“Two years ago, Terry McAuliffe called for all three persons occupying the offices of Governor, Lt. Governor, and Atty. General to resign,” Mr. Wilder wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Today, McAuliffe is asking people to vote for that A.G. who served as his attorney general, and seeks the continuing support of Northam.”
The critique illuminates a potential stumbling block with minority and women voters for Mr. McAuliffe, who faces Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Nov. 2 general election.
Mr. Wilder, who served as governor from 1990 to 1994, previously criticized Mr. McAuliffe’s bid to run for governor, which he insinuated had blocked the pathway for candidates of color to seek the seat.
Mr. McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, joined scores of Democrats in calling for Mr. Northam to step down after the blackface scandal erupted. He also called for the “immediate resignation” of Mr. Fairfax over sexual misconduct allegations by at least two women that Mr. McAuliffe said were “serious and credible.”
Mr. McAuliffe then accepted Mr. Northam’s endorsement of him in April, praising the governor’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. McAuliffe easily defeated several other Democratic contenders in the June primary, including former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, two Black women. Mr. Fairfax, the second Black man behind Mr. Wilder to hold statewide office in Virginia, also sought the nomination.
Mr. Wilder criticized Mr. McAuliffe’s candidacy in a January post in his blog, Wilder Visions, signaling that Democrats wouldn’t be able to win without support from minorities, whom he credited for Mr. McAuliffe’s first victory in 2013.
“No Democrat, in recent times, has won an election in Virginia without strong minority votes, as was the case when McAuliffe, who had never been elected to ANY office, was elected governor,” Mr. Wilder wrote. “Why should he expect that vote to be there for him in 2021 having shown such little appreciation for it?”
Virginia law bars governors from serving consecutive terms, but they are allowed to run for a second term at a later date.