Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday he won’t be present for President Donald Trump’s remarks at the 400th anniversary of representative government in Jamestown later this month. Several of Virginia’s top Democrats have announced plans to boycott the event while Trump is in attendance.
“I plan to speak the morning of the 30th, but because of my schedule, I won’t be there when President Trump is here,” Northam said after a stop in Dumfries on Monday, July 22.
Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage over the weekend after learning that Northam (D), alongside House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-66th, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, R-3rd, had invited Trump to speak at the event. The formal invitation, sent in August 2018, said it was an “honor and privilege” to invite the president to participate in the event.
“Your presence and remarks on this important anniversary would be most appropriate. By lending your voice and insights, you would continue a tradition that has brought numerous prior Presidents and world leaders, including Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, to Jamestown to reflect on the significance of the place its major milestones,” the letter said.
High-ranking Democratic lawmakers, including state Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-35th, and House of Delegates Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn, D-41st, issued a statement on Friday saying they would not attend the event while Trump is present.
“The current president does not represent the values that we would celebrate at the 400th anniversary of the oldest democratic body in the western world. We offer just three words of advice to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation: ‘Send Him Back,’” Saslaw, Filler-Corn and other top Democrats said.
Northam said the decision to invite Trump to the event was a formality, and that his office had also invited Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and former-President Barack Obama (D) to attend the ceremony.
“This is something of American significance, the 400-year commemoration of our history. It’s something that merits national attention and it’s kind of a formality to reach out with invitations to a lot of people,” Northam said Monday.
American Evolution, organizer of the July 30 events, said Pelosi’s office declined the invitation within the last two weeks, and the White House had made no announcement regarding the president’s plans.
The July 30th ceremonies will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly in the western hemisphere, held in Jamestown’s church in 1619. Members of the Virginia General Assembly, Congress and state legislatures across the country are expected to attend the event.
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