Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-VA) was removed Friday as chairman of the Democrat Lieutenant Governors Association in the wake of two sexual assault allegations against him.
The group announced Lt. Govs. Cyrus Habib (D-WA) and Bethany Hall-Long (D-DE) will replace Fairfax as interim co-chairs.
“Lt. Governors Hall-Long and Habib have been leaders of this organization and are fully committed to making a meaningful difference in the future and direction of our country,” Roshan Patel, DLGA’s executive director, said in a statement.
— Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (@DemocraticLGs) February 9, 2019
Last year, Fairfax helped launch DLGA to compete with the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association’s down-ballot fundraising efforts, according to Politico. He served as the group’s first chair.
Fairfax’s removal comes after a second woman, in a statement through her attorney, accused the Lt. Gov. of raping her while the two attended Duke University in 2000.
The woman, Meredith Watson, said she told her classmates about the alleged incident immediately after it occurred, and shared her account with others in emails and Facebook messages. Watson said she and Fairfax were friends prior to the alleged rape, but had never dated. “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,” Nancy Erika Smith, Watson’s lawyer, said Friday. “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 called on the embattled Virginia Democrat to resign.
On Wednesday, Fairfax’s first accuser, California professor Dr. Vanessa Tyson, broke her silence about her allegation, claiming he forced her to perform oral sex on him and cried as she tried to move her head away from his genitals.
Tyson said in a statement through her law firm Katz Marshall & Banks:
With tremendous anguish, I am now sharing this information about my experience and setting the record straight,” “It has been extremely difficult to relive that traumatic experience from 2004. Mr. Fairfax has tried to brand me as a liar to a national audience, in service to his political ambitions, and has threatened litigation. Given his false assertions, I’m compelled to make clear what happened.
Fairfax, in a statement Saturday, vehemently denied the pair of accusations and renewed his vow to remain Lt. Gov. He said:
This has been a devastating week for my family. It has been an especially devastating time for the great Commonwealth of Virginia. I say again without reservation: I did not sexually assault or rape Meredith Watson, Vanessa Tyson or anyone else. Our American values don’t just work when it’s convenient — they must be applied at the most difficult of times.
Several high profile Virginia Democrat lawmakers and 2020 presidential contenders are calling on Fairfax to resign over the allegations, including former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “The allegations against Justin Fairfax are serious and credible,” McAuliffe said in a statement shared to Twitter. “It is clear to me that he can no longer effectively serve the people of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor. I call for his immediate resignation.”