After Second Assault Accusation, Resignation Calls Intensify for Virginia Lt. Governor
By Jessica Schladebeck
The Democratic Party of Virginia demanded Justin Fairfax step down as Lieutenant Governor, joining scores of other calls for his resignation after a second woman accused him of sexual assault this week.
"The Lieutenant Governor no longer has our confidence or support. He must resign," Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Susan Swecker said in a statement Saturday morning.
It comes a day after attorney Nancy Erika Smith issued a statement on behalf of Meredith Watson, who accused Fairfax of raping her while they were both undergraduates at Duke University in 2000.
"At this time, Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character," it reads.
"She has no interest in becoming a media personality or reliving the trauma that has greatly affected her life. Similarly, she is not seeking any financial damages."
Watson is the second to come forward with such allegations after Scripps College professor Vanessa Tyson. She claimed last week that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in his hotel room during the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
"We believe that allegations of sexual assault must be taken with the utmost seriousness. Given the credible nature of the sexual assault claims against Lieutenant Governor Fairfax, it has become clear he can longer fulfill the duties and responsibilities of his post," the Democratic Party of Virginia said.
"While the Lieutenant Governor deserves due process in this matter, it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth that he goes through this process as a private citizen."
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which initially stood by the Fairfax following the first accusation, said it would be "best for Lt. Governor Fairfax to step down from his position." The Virginia Legislative Caucus and other high-profile politicians have also called on Fairfax to resign.
New Jersey Senator and Presidential hopeful Cory Booker echoed the sentiment, saying "it is no longer appropriate for him to serve." Sen Kristen Gillibrand, who has also tossed her hat in the 2020 Presidential race, praised both Watson and Tyson, calling them "extremely brave" for coming forward while similarly calling on Fairfax to step down.
Fairfax, one of three top-tier Virginia Democrats roiled in scandal, has denied both allegations against him. In a statement released Friday he said he would not step down and called for an investigation into both claims.
"I will clear my good name and I have nothing to hide. I have passed two full field background checks by the FBI and run for office in two highly contested elections with nothing like this being raised before," he said in a statement.
"It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me."
The 39-year-old Democrat, who is also the second African American elected to statewide office in Virginia, seemed poised to to ascend to the governor's mansion following a separate controversy swirling around Gov. Ralph Northam.
The Governor, also a Democrat, earlier this month admitted to wearing blackface after news outlets published a racist photo from his decades-old yearbook page. The image features two men -- one has their face darkened with shoe polish while the other sports full KKK regalia.
Northam initially apologized for the racist picture before denying that he participated in the photo opp altogether. He has has also refused to step down. Just days later, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he too wore blackface during a party at the University of Virginia in the 1980s.
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