Impeachment promised for Virginia’s Fairfax
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.”