Virginia lieutenant governor announces gubernatorial bid less than two years after sexual assault allegations


Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax declared his candidacy for governor following a scandalous term as the state's second in command.

Fairfax, a Democrat, announced on Saturday that he would be running for governor less than two years after he was accused of sexual assault by two women. Fairfax has denied the allegations and told the Associated Press that he would not let a "smear campaign" stop his gubernatorial dreams.

"The voters are incredibly smart. They see through this kind of destructive, politically motivated kind of politics. And they are ready to move to higher ground," Fairfax said.

In February 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was ensnared in a racism scandal after a yearbook photograph resurfaced showing his page with a photo of a man in blackface standing by a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe. Northam denied being in the photos, but he did acknowledge that he darkened his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume in the 1980s. As some began to demand Northam's resignation, Fairfax fell into the spotlight.

Two women came forward with allegations of sexual assault against Fairfax. Meredith Watson, who attended Duke University with Fairfax, accused him of raping her in 2000. Vanessa Tyson, a California professor, accused Fairfax of forcing her to perform oral sex on him during the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Debra Katz, an attorney for Tyson, condemned Fairfax's decision to run.

"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 in a statement.

Northam cannot run for reelection in 2021 because of the term-limit restrictions in Virginia that forbid back-to-back terms. There are several other Democratic candidates considering a bid, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.