Justin Fairfax mulls run for governor, says sex assault allegations improved his name recognition
Virginia Lieutenant Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) says he is weighing a run for governor, after concluding that he is more recognizable to voters now than at any time in his political career.
That name recognition has come, however, after Fairfax — once briefly considered a saving grace for a state humiliated when Gov. Ralph Northam was spotted in an old yearbook photo amid students wearing blackface and KKK robes — was accused of sexual violence by two women.
Fairfax earlier this year he was called on to resign by Democrats around the country, including 2020 presidential contenders Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
But he has refused to leave office. Just the opposite: According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fairfax told reporters last week that he is “very hopeful about the future” and “thinking very seriously” about a gubernatorial run in 2021:
“Many people a year ago would not have recognized me, now they really do,” Fairfax said. “People come up to me at gas stations, they say, ‘Hey, we recognize you. We love you. We know what they are saying about you is false.’”
In response to Fairfax’s remarks, the Republican Governors Association released a statement decrying the lieutenant governor’s “disgusting” words, calling them “proof of just how morally bankrupt Commonwealth Democrat leaders really are. Justin Fairfax’s comments are an insult to victims everywhere, and Democrats must either roundly condemn him or expose themselves as total hypocrites.”
Vanessa Tyson says Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2004, an experience she did not speak about until she learned of his campaign for lieutenant governor and felt an “obligation” to come forward. He maintains their encounter was consensual; Tyson, for her part, says she “cried and gagged” throughout the assault, during which Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex. “I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced act was consensual.”
And Meredith Watson has accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 when they were both students at Duke University. Through an attorney, she described the assault as “premeditated and aggressive.”