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Duke alum Justin Fairfax to seek Democratic nomination to run for Virginia governor in 2021

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Trinity ’00, is running to be the next governor of Virginia.

Fairfax, who is running despite having faced allegations of sexual assault—which he has denied—announced his candidacy Sept. 10. The following weekend, he held campaign events at the Historic Fairfax County Courthouse in northern Virginia, where one of his ancestors was formally freed from slavery, as well as Ft. Monroe in Hampton, Va. 

Other contenders for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in Virginia—where governors cannot serve consecutive terms—include State Delegate Jennifer Carrol Foy and State Sen. Jennifer McClellan. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, has also filed paperwork to form a campaign committee for the election but has not committed to running.

State Sen. Amanda F. Chase is currently the only declared gubernatorial candidate for the Republican Party, although Kirk Cox, former speaker of the State House of Delegates, is also considering entering the race. 

If elected, Fairfax would be the first African American to serve as Governor of Virginia since the early 1990s. 

Fairfax currently serves as lieutenant governor under Gov. Ralph Northam. Some of his recent actions included calling for Northam to take stricter measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 throughout Virginia in mid-March and requesting a task force to address the racial disparities of the pandemic in mid-May. 

Fairfax’s campaign will focus on “justice, fairness and opportunity” for all Virginians as well as on Medicaid expansion, police reform and increased education spending.

The announcement comes a year and a half after two women accused Fairfax of sexual assault. 

In February 2019, a turbulent month in Virginia politics, Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention. 

Fairfax denied of the allegation, calling it “surprising and hurtful,” according to NPR, and insisting that Tyson gave consent. 

That same month, a fellow Duke alum, Meredith Watson, Trinity ’01, also made a sexual assault allegation against Fairfax. Watson accused Fairfax of raping her in 2000 while they were both undergraduate students at Duke. 

Fairfax denied that allegation as well. Over a year and a half later, he has maintained that the allegations are political and has called for the claims to be investigated.

“The voters are incredibly smart,” Fairfax told the Associated Press in September. “They see through this kind of destructive, politically motivated kind of politics. And they are ready to move to higher ground.”

Debra Katz, an attorney for one of Fairfax’s accusers, has renewed calls for the Virginia legislature to hold a public hearing concerning the allegations. 

In an email to the Washington Post, Katz stated that by launching a gubernatorial bid, Fairfax “apparently believes that the citizens of the Commonwealth have forgotten about the serious and credible allegations of sexual assault made against him.”

“[Fairfax] has to somehow convince [voters] that they sort of jumped to a conclusion before the evidence was in,” Richmond political analyst Bob Holsworth told the Post. “...I think it’s an uphill climb for him.”

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