RICHMOND, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - With scandal striking political leaders in Virginia’s top three posts, the question remains, what happens if all three must resign.
You don’t need to be a constitutional law professor to know that this is a mess, but they can help you sort out the road map.
The three top elected officials in Virginia – all Democrats – are embroiled in scandal and facing calls to resign, testing the state’s constitution and line of succession.
George Mason University Professor Eugene Kontorovich says Virginia’s constitution spells out what happens if the governor and lieutenant governor resign.
But it gets more complicated if the attorney general follows them out the door.
“Even if all three of the executive offices -- the governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general – if they all resign, who will ultimately have a job will depend on the order in which they resign,” Kontorovich said.
If Governor Ralph Northam resigns, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax would become governor.
But if both Northam and Fairfax resign, the constitution says Attorney General Mark Herring would become governor.
If the attorney general is out of the picture, however, the Speaker of the House of Delegates becomes governor.
The current speaker is Kirk Cox, a Republican.
“It’s an ugly play, and a play that looks bad. Why even as the scandal broadens, it is actually possible that as more people fall under suspicion, nobody will quit,” Kontorovich said.
If a three-way resignation were to occur and Fairfax resigns as lieutenant governor, the Virginia Senate Republican Steve Newman would step in.
Herring’s replacement would be more complicated. If that happens before the General Assembly Session ends on February 23, they would choose and vote on a new attorney general.
If it happens after the 23rd, the new governor could temporarily appoint a new attorney general until the legislature returns for the 2020 session.