Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax announced his plans to run for the head of the Commonwealth on Saturday, hoping to take over for fellow Democrat Ralph Northam whose term expires at the beginning of 2022.
Fairfax, 41, was accused of rape last year by two women, stemming from alleged incidents in 2004 and 2005. The allegations came out just as Gov. Northam was embroiled in his own controversy revolving around a college yearbook photo depicting a man in blackface and a man in a KKK hood.
Dr. Vanessa Tyson alleged that Fairfax raped her in the early 2000s; her claim against him was rejected by the Washington Post in 2018, amid heightened awareness of #MeToo accusations against powerful men. Townhall reported the story at the time:
Tyson, who is now a professor at Scripps College, said that Fairfax had physically forced her to perform oral sex in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” she wrote.
Fairfax has claimed the incident was “consensual” but Tyson described crying and Fairfax forcefully holding down her neck despite her attempts to move her head away.
“I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual,” she wrote.
Tyson said that as the #MeToo movement occurred she felt that she should share her story but “felt powerless, frustrated, and completely drained,” when The Washington Post decided not to run it in March 2018.
Just days after Dr. Tyson's accusation, a second accuser, Meredith Watson, came forward claiming Fairfax sexually assaulted her in 2000.
Another accuser has just come forward to accuse Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax of raping her in college pic.twitter.com/8HSBT3rq4B— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) February 8, 2019
Fairfax vehemently denied both claims and controversy surrounding the top leadership in Virginia quieted as Democrat presidential candidates took over front-page news.
Riding on the hopes that the nation and the people of Virginia have moved on from the disturbing and credible allegations against him, Fairfax threw his hat into the ring of contenders for the Commonwealth's top job. The field thus far has been dominated by female party leaders.
Fairfax said the voters will not care about what he may or may not have done because they're "smart."
"The voters are incredibly smart," he said just before officially announcing his candidacy. "They see through this kind of destructive, politically motivated kind of politics. And they are ready to move to higher ground."
Dr. Tyson's lawyer, Debra Katz, saw it as a swipe against her client and Watson and against the people in Virginia who she does not think are ready to move on from the accusations.
"Apparently Lt. Governor Fairfax believes that the citizens of the Commonwealth have forgotten about the serious and credible allegations of sexual assault made against him by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson and about his deplorable treatment of them after they came forward,” Katz said.
Fairfax has served as Lt. Governor of Virginia since the start of 2018. Once a Republican stronghold, the Commonwealth of Virginia has swung further to the left in recent years, sending two Democrat senators to Washington and eventually ceding the Virginia General Assembly to Democrat Party in 2019. While most counties continue to vote red in national and state-wide elections, dense population centers in Northern Virginia have handed the state to Democrats.