Editor: Over the last week or so, I keep getting this same question, sometimes rhetorically and something inquisitively, but always, “where is our lieutenant governor?’ Now I know our lieutenant governor is not sick or in self-isolation. But what I and the rest of the citizens of the Commonwealth do not know is why our lieutenant governor has been absent from “all” of Governor Northam’s coronavirus briefings. We see other Administration officials and even lesser functionaries like the mayor of Richmond present, but, never the lieutenant governor.
I like many other citizens have found this quite odd. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax like the governor is a Democrat. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax is black and from my understanding black Virginians are the most loyal Democratic voting bloc in the state. Lieutenant Governor Fairfax happens to live in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County) the most populous and economically important region in Virginia, which is ironically the region of most concern in the state regarding the coronavirus. Still we have not seen the lieutenant governor at any of the governor’s briefing.
I know the lieutenant governor has been holding calls with black leaders and clergy for the past several weeks to discuss the crisis and issues surrounding coronavirus and its impact on our everyday lives. The first call was organized in less than a day and crashed the system because of the number of people on the call. Most if not all were black Virginians with critical concerns and questions that they felt that they were not getting answers too. His follow-on calls with black leaders and clergy again were at capacity and again revolved around questions black Virginians felt they were not getting answered.
Despite making these valuable contacts and conversations with black Virginians, still we have not seen the lieutenant governor at the governor’s briefings. Does this mean that he has not been invited? Does this mean that the governor and his team are not talking to him? Does this mean that the governor and his team are not interested in the questions and concerns the black Virginians have addressed to the lieutenant governor?
The absence of the lieutenant governor is extremely disconcerting to many of us black Virginians. This sort of reminds of us of when the lieutenant government was removed from joint campaign literature during the last election. It’s even more obvious and glaring when you compare it to how the black lieutenant governor in Maryland is treated, as an equal partner in addressing the issues of the citizens of that state. Although we understand that there are many questions to ask the governor in this time of crisis, many Virginians want to know where is our lieutenant government and why, when all hands are needed to address this crisis, is he being left, seemingly intentionally, on the side lines?
Phillip E. Thompson, Executive Director
National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization