Im­peach­ment promised for Vir­ginia’s Fair­fax

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - John Ba­con USA TO­DAY

Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax ap­peared headed on a po­lit­i­cal col­li­sion course Sun­day with a lit­tle-known state del­e­gate from his own party who pledged to in­tro­duce ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment Mon­day if the 39-year-old Demo­crat re­fuses to re­sign.

Fair­fax is one of three top Vir­ginia po­lit­i­cal lead­ers en­gulfed in a firestorm of scan­dal. Gov. Ralph Northam and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring, also Democrats, ad­mit­ted wear­ing black­face at par­ties in the 1980s, while Fair­fax faced ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual as­sault he re­peat­edly has de­nied.

Del. Pa­trick Hope said the state con­sti­tu­tion “states very clearly that im­peach­ment should be for high crimes and mis­de­meanors. There is no question that vi­o­lent sex­ual as­sault clearly qual­i­fies as high crime.”

Uni­ver­sity of Rich­mond law pro­fes­sor Carl To­bias said the House could im­peach Fair­fax given that the GOP seems to “per­ceive lit­tle down­side” to it.

“If Fair­fax is im­peached, it re­mains un­clear whether the Sen­ate would con­vict,” To­bias told USA TO­DAY. “A twothirds vote is needed, and that may de­pend on the ev­i­dence of­fered.”

Fair­fax reaf­firmed his in­no­cence Satur­day and his in­ten­tion to re­main in of­fice. He called for “space in this mo­ment for due process” and for an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The FBI de­clined to com­ment.

Fair­fax, who would suc­ceed Northam if the gover­nor re­signs, was ac­cused last week of sex­ual as­sault by a for­mer col­league at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Bos­ton in 2004. Fair­fax strongly de­nied the charges made by Vanessa Tyson, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at Scripps Col­lege in Cal­i­for­nia.

Lawyers for Fair­fax’s sec­ond ac­cuser, Mered­ith Wat­son, re­leased a state­ment days later say­ing Fair­fax raped her while they were stu­dents at Duke Uni­ver­sity in 2000. Wat­son also said she would be will­ing to tes­tify at an im­peach­ment hear­ing.

De­spite the calls for his res­ig­na­tion, only Hope has pledged to seek im­peach­ment. Hope is a fifth-term del­e­gate from Ar­ling­ton, among the most lib­eral dis­tricts in the state. Hope, a health care lawyer and a mar­ried father of three, said that “as the father of three young girls I can­not stand by si­lently.”

Justin Fair­fax

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