Justin Fairfax is in a tough race to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor, but he is doing everything he can to convince voters in his state that he is ready to be their second most influential political leader. Polls have consistently shown Fairfax leading Vogel by as much as six points and as little as one point.
“I will be a lieutenant governor for all Virginians,” Fairfax said in an interview with the AFRO. “My priorities are economic security and opportunity for all. We have to give the people the opportunity to rise; I was given the chance that chance and I want to share it with others.”
Fairfax is a District of Columbia native and lives in Annandale, Va., with his wife and two children. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in Durham, N.C. and a juris doctorate from the Columbia School of Law in New York City, where he was a member of its prestigious law review. He is a former law clerk to a federal judge, a former federal prosecutor and has practiced law with a District law firm. He and his wife own a dental practice.
Fairfax won the Democratic primary in June and will vie for the second highest elected position with Virginia State Sen. Jill Vogel (R-District 27), representing Fauquier County, at the general election on Nov. 7. To win, it is believed that Fairfax must motivate Blacks to vote for him and he is aware of that fact. “My message to African American voters is that as an African American, husband and father, as a small business owner and former federal prosecutor, I will fight for substantive progress that elevates all Virginians,” he said. “I will work to ensure that nobody faces discrimination, whether from schools, banks or the criminal justice system. No matter where you’re born, what your last name is, the color of your skin, how wealthy you are or who you love, you deserve civil rights and a chance at the American Dream.
“In particular, I support dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, closing the racial wealth and health gap, increasing minority employment, entrepreneurship and access to capital, ensuring our criminal justice system treats everyone justly, increasing diversity among our judges, prosecutors, and public defenders and fighting against racial gerrymandering and voter suppression so that everyone can exercise their right to vote.”
Fairfax has had to deal with some racial issues. On Oct. 5, Vogel was widely criticized for saying during a debate that Fairfax couldn’t talk intelligently about issues and there has been an intra-party matter where Fairfax has been left out of some literature that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam and other Democrats on the statewide ticket have been featured on.
Despite the controversies, Fairfax said he is focusing on mobilizing voters. “We are just under two weeks from election day and we are not slowing down at all,” he said. “The same way we have been spreading our message across the Commonwealth since May 2016, we will continue until Nov. 7. In the coming days we will have some major events with some heavy hitting Democrats from across the country who are reminding us of what is at stake in this election.
“We’ve had events hosted by Vice President Biden, former Attorney General Eric Holder and of course, President Obama. It’s been great seeing everyone come together to show how important this election is.”
With less than a week until Election Day, a recent Washington Post-Schar School Virginia poll shows Fairfax with a 6 percentage point lead over Vogel.
Jeffrey Powell lives in Roanoke, Va., located in the southwest part of the state. Powell told the AFRO that Fairfax understands the needs of “down state Virginians.”
“Fairfax has made several trips into the region of the state to meet with constituents, listen to our concerns and discuss his vision of Virginia,” he said. “He understands that we need well-paying jobs; with the loss of the textile industry, downsizing of the railroad industry, under employment and the unemployment, substance abuse, drugs, educational opportunities that has left ‘Down State’ well behind our brethren of northern, central and Tidewater Virginia.”
Political scientist John Bullock of Baltimore has been keeping an eye on the Fairfax-Vogel race. Bullock told the AFRO that Fairfax has “a decent amount of support,” but questions whether he has the support of the brass of the Virginia Democratic Party. “How much he gets from the party will have an impact on the race,” Bullock said.
Bullock said race is a strong factor in the contest. “Yes, it is obviously there,” he said. “It is a challenge for an African American to run for a statewide position and this makes it tougher given the political discourse in the country and Virginia. This race spurs a historical moment but he still has a lot of challenges to overcome in order to win.”
Racial tension is not only apparent in the lieutenant governor’s race, it is also apparent in Virginia’s gubernatorial race between former Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Ed Gillespie (R).
With the general election days away, Virginia’s governor’s race is gaining national attention from a divisive ad released Oct. 30 by Latino Victory Project, a Democratic group, that shows a truck with a confederate flag and a Gillespie bumper sticker chasing minority children down the street. President Donald J. Trump has also called on Gillespie to protect Virginia’s confederate statues.