or a ceramic bowl
February 6, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is resisting calls to step down after his yearbook page showed a photo of a man in blackface. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) is facing a sexual assault allegation, which he has denied. And the third in line to lead the commonwealth? Well, Attorney General Mark Herring (D) just admitted he wore blackface in college.

Should they all step aside, House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox — the only Republican in the line of succession — would become governor. And he's only in that position by complete and total chance.

After the lower legislative house's last elections in 2017, its 94th district seat in Newport News was stuck in a tie. So Democrat Shelley Simonds and Republican incumbent David Yancey put their names in a ceramic bowl, and when Yancey's name was drawn, he got the job, USA Today details. That gave the GOP a slim 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates and allowed Cox to be selected its speaker.

As confusing as Cox's case may be, it's actually clearer than what would happen should he step aside as well. Virginia doesn't have a fifth designate in its gubernatorial line of succession, The Washington Post notes, so its House of Delegates would choose the next leader. That means the next governor would likely be a Republican because — and we can't stress this enough — the House's GOP majority was determined by drawing a name out of a bowl. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads