In February, Northam was embroiled in scandal after a former classmate — who was outraged by the governor’s comments on late-term abortion — drew attention to Northam’s yearbook page which included a photo of two men, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe.
Northam originally apologized, then denied that he was in the photo. He did, however, admit to wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson dance competition in a press conference about the yearbook photo. In the same press conference, Northam also cracked a joke about the difficulties of washing off shoe polish and nearly attempted to moonwalk.
The governor’s national scandal thrust Fairfax into the spotlight, as he would have been the man to fill Northam’s shoes if he were to resign. While Fairfax was in the headlines, two women came forward with accusations of sexual assault.
Fairfax didn’t handle the accusations well. He claimed that Northam had leaked the accusations to protect himself from calls for his resignation. He also didn’t have kind words for his accusers, according to reports.
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) February 6, 2019
Both Northam and Fairfax — and third-ranking Democrat Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Va.) who also admitted to wearing blackface — all remained in office, despite calls for their resignations.
Due to Virginia’s policy on term limits, Northam will not be eligible to run for reelection in 2022, but Fairfax could seek the office if he chose to do so.
In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Fairfax claimed that the scandal helped boost his name recognition and could help his election odds if he chooses to run.
“Many people a year ago would not have recognized me, now they really do,” Fairfax told the Times-Dispatch. “People come up to me at gas stations, they say, ‘Hey, we recognize you. We love you. We know what they are saying about you is false.’”
This comment raised a lot of eyebrows. Many were outraged that the Virginia legislature has refused to allow Fairfax’s accusers to testify about the allegations against the lieutenant governor.
MORE from @LGJustinFairfax on how allegations of sexual assault have actually HELPED him: “People come up to me at gas stations, they say, ‘Hey, we recognize you. We love you. We know what they are saying about you is false.’” https://t.co/M29frImQll
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) June 24, 2019
politics in 2019:
“Fairfax, who faces sexual assault allegations by two women, said the scandal has raised his public profile for good.”https://t.co/0DFdxp4uzW
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) June 24, 2019
Shameful that @VAHouseDems @VASenateDems @vademocrats won’t let the accusers be heard: “Fairfax 'thinking very seriously' about run for governor, says scandal has raised his public profile| https://t.co/LbgeHetuTa https://t.co/AhxPb0Ndws
— Karen Finney (@finneyk) June 24, 2019
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, on the silver lining of the sexual assault allegations made against him by two women: “Many people a year ago would not have recognized me, now they really do.” https://t.co/R7BQwbDY6I
— Kyle Trygstad (@KyleTrygstad) June 21, 2019
Fairfax will have plenty of time to consider his gubernatorial bid, as the election isn’t until 2022.