Justin Fairfax Heads into Homestretch, in pursuit of the Black Vote

Virginia Lieutenant Governor’s Race

by: James Wright Special to the AFRO jwright@afro.com
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Justin Fairfax, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia, is working hard to make the case for his election on Nov. 7, and Blacks in the state appear to be with him.

Fairfax is competing against Virginia State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-District 27) to become the Old Dominion’s second Black lieutenant governor. The first African American to win the position, L. Douglas Wilder, told the AFRO in a Nov. 2 interview that he has counseled Fairfax on how he should run his race.

Former President Obama joined Justin Fairfax during his campaign for lieutenant governor in Virginia. Fairfax is currently the front-runner in the race. (Courtesy photo)

“I have talked with Justin quite a lot during the past year,” said Wilder, who served as lieutenant governor from 1985-1989 and served as governor from 1989-1993. “I told Justin that when he speaks to different crowds to deliver the same message instead of tailoring the message to fit the crowd.

“I told him to tell the people what he wants to do when he is in office. I told him what I learned while serving in public office and that is people are not concerned about where you come from but where are you going.”

Wilder said that Fairfax is “highly qualified” and will make up for his lack of experience in elected office. If elected, Fairfax would be a first-time office holder.

Blacks are 20 percent of the electorate and that is enough to swing an election. Such was the case when Wilder was elected in 1989 over Republican Marshall Coleman by less than half of a percent and the heavy turnout in Black precincts in the Richmond and Tidewater areas of the state put him over the top.

Wilder said that race is a factor in Virginia politics but that should not stop Fairfax.

Y”People can look at you and see who you are,” he said. “He has to make people all over Virginia comfortable with him.”

Wilder said he is well aware of some of the issues that Fairfax has had with the establishment of the Virginia Democratic Party.

“They haven’t treated Justin fairly,” he said. “They did not allow him to speak at the recent convention and his name and likeness has been omitted on some literature. I know of an incident where money was going to be given to Ralph Northam [the Democratic nominee for governor] and Mark Herring [the Democratic nominee for attorney general] but none was going to be given to Justin. I heard about this and said ‘that’s not fair.’”

Wilder said that Fairfax eventually got a nice sum of money from those donors but that shouldn’t have been the case.

Wilder said he hopes that Fairfax and the other Democrats for statewide office work hard for a large turnout.

“On off-election years like this one the turnout tends to be small,” he said. “You won’t win if you just focus on being anti-Trump. Being anti-Trump doesn’t translate into votes.”

Later that day, Wilder formally endorsed Fairfax.

Fairfax has been endorsed by Black officer holders such as U.S. Reps. Robert Scott (D-Va.) and Donald McEachin (D-Va.) as well as Roanoke, Va. Mayor Sherman P. Lea and the individual members of the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus. Fairfax has also campaigned with former President Barack Obama, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

Fairfax made an appearance with Northam and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe outside of the Fairfax County Democratic headquarters on a rainy, cool Nov. 4 night. In atttendance was Senora Avery, who lives in Fairfax County and said she and her friends are excited about Fairfax’s candidacy.

“I am very enthusiastic about Justin Fairfax,” Avery told the AFRO. “I have been working on getting this ticket elected all year. We are working to make sure that he wins big in Fairfax County.”

Fairfax County is 9.17 percent Black according to the 2010 census. Fairfax and his family live in Annandale in Fairfax County that is 8 percent Black.

Like Avery, Sherry Feggins stood out in the rain to listen to Fairfax speak.

“I believe in the Democratic Party and Justin Fairfax is awesome,” Feggins, who lives in Lorton, Va., said. “The African-American vote is critical in this election and we need Justin as lieutenant governor. He’s our Obama.”

Fairfax delivered a 10-minute speech to the 40 people in the rain, talking about getting the vote out for the Democratic ticket and quoted former first lady Michelle Obama in saying “when they go low, we go high.” He said rallies that were expected to draw dozens of people have had hundreds throughout the campaign in recent days and noted that more Democrats voted in the June primaries than Republicans.

In a brief interview, Fairfax told the AFRO that to get out the Black vote, he has visited HBCUs and Black churches to emphasize his desire to increase funds for education, put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and get better health care for all Virginians

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