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2020 candidates are pressuring Virginia's Justin Fairfax to step down over assault allegations

The cries have gotten louder since Friday, when a second woman came forward

by Emma Ockerman
Feb 11 2019, 8:15pm

Of all the embattled Virginia politicians right now, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is facing the most pressure to resign, after the second woman in a week came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. At least 23 Democratic politicians say Fairfax should step aside, and Virginia state Democrats on Monday were about to begin an impeachment process but backed off for now.

Those calling for Fairfax’s resignation include some of the most prominent Democrats in the country — 2020 candidates Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar — in addition to Virginia’s former Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, the Democratic Party of Virginia and the Virginia House Democrats have also said Fairfax should resign.

The demands have gotten louder since Friday, when Meredith Watson came forward in a statement through her lawyer alleging Fairfax raped her when the two were students at Duke University in 2000. Watson was inspired to speak out after Fairfax’s first accuser, Vanessa Tyson, a political science professor, publicly accused Fairfax of sexually assaulting her during the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

“These credible and troubling allegations from Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson make it clear that Lt. Gov. Fairfax should resign. My heart goes out to these brave women and their families,” Warren, a 2020 presidential contender, said in a tweet on Friday.

Fairfax has denied the allegations against him and is refusing to resign. Instead, he’s asked for an independent investigation into the allegations, which came to light last week because Fairfax is next in line to lead the state if Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam should resign over his own scandal.

Northam, under fire after a photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced showing a person in blackface next to another wearing Ku Klux Klan garb, has also repeatedly said he won’t resign. Northam has said he’s not in that photo, but he did admit he wore blackface for a dance contest around the same time. The person who is third in line to lead the state, Attorney General Mark Herring, also admitted to wearing blackface at a college party. If all three Democrats were to resign, a Republican, Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, would take over. Cox has publicly called on both Northam and Fairfax to resign, and said Herring should “adhere to the standard he has set for others,” according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch.

Meanwhile, Virginia delegate and Democrat Patrick Hope was planning to take the first step of the impeachment process on Monday but decided against it because of “additional conversations that need to take place before anything is filed,” he said in a tweet on Monday.

"The Lieutenant Governor no longer has our confidence or support. He must resign,” the chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party, Susan Swecker, said in a statement Saturday.

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Northam said he thinks the allegations against his lieutenant governor need to be “taken seriously.”

"I can only imagine that it must take tremendous courage for women to step forward and talk about these things that are just so hurtful. And these accusations are very, very serious. They need to be taken seriously," Northam said. "As you know, Governor Fairfax has called for an investigation. I really think where we are now, we need to get to the truth.

Cover: Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax speaks during an interview in his office at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Fairfax answered questions about the controversial photo in Gov. Ralph Northam's yearbook page. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

sexual assault
Elizabeth Warren
kamala harris
Ralph Northam
Justin Fairfax