Justin Fairfax

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Justin Fairfax
Justin Fairfax.jpg
41st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia
Assumed office
January 13, 2018
GovernorRalph Northam
Preceded byRalph Northam
Personal details
Justin Edward Fairfax

(1979-02-17) February 17, 1979 (age 39)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Cerina Fairfax (m. 2006)
EducationDuke University (BA)
Columbia University (JD)
WebsiteGovernment website

Justin Edward Fairfax (born February 17, 1979)[1][2] is an American attorney and politician serving as the 41st Lieutenant Governor of Virginia since 2018. A member of the Democratic Party, he defeated Republican nominee Jill Vogel in the 2017 election. He is the second African American elected statewide, following Douglas Wilder, who was elected to the same position in 1985 and became Virginia Governor in the 1989 election.

Early life and career[edit]

Fairfax moved with his family from Pittsburgh to northeast Washington, D.C. when he was five years old. One of four children, Fairfax graduated from DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, where he was senior class president.[3] Fairfax then graduated from Duke University in 2000,[4] with a degree in public policy.[5] He was a briefing coordinator for Tipper Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign of Al Gore, in the campaign's Nashville, Tennessee office.[3][6] Fairfax was also a staffer for Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, in the senator's Washington office.[3][6]

After serving on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee for two years, Fairfax attended Columbia Law School,[6] where he was a member of the Columbia Law Review.[3] Over the Summer of 2004, he joined the John Kerry presidential campaign, as a body man for John Edwards.[7] He then served as law clerk to Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2005. He worked in the Washington office of the law firm WilmerHale before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2010.[4] Fairfax worked for two years as a federal prosecutor in Alexandria, Virginia.[6] He served as deputy coordinator of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force during this time.[8]

Fairfax ran for public office for the first time in 2013, seeking the Democratic nomination for state attorney general.[6] He lost to Mark Herring, but surprised party insiders with his strong performance in the primary.[4] Herring defeated Fairfax by about 4,500 votes out of 141,600 cast[5] in a closer-than-expected race.[8] The Washington Post praised both candidates during the primary, but endorsed Fairfax, writing that he had displayed "an agile and impressive command of the issues with a prosecutor's passion for justice."[9]

After the race, Fairfax co-chaired the 2014 re-election campaign of Virginia Senator Mark Warner.[10] The following year, he was recruited to work at the law firm of Venable LLP,[4] in the firm's Tysons, Virginia office.[3]

Lieutenant Governor of Virginia[edit]


In 2017, Fairfax ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. In the Democratic primaries, he faced Gene Rossi, a federal prosecutor, who had trained Fairfax when they worked together in Alexandria's Eastern District federal court,[11][12] and Susan Platt, a political lobbyist and consultant, who had served as chief of staff to Joe Biden in the 1990s (Platt had also run Virginia Senator Chuck Robb's 1994 re-election campaign and Don Beyer's unsuccessful 1997 gubernatorial campaign).[11][13] Citing their unease with Dominion Energy's planned construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, all three candidates in the Democratic primary pledged to refuse campaign contributions from Dominion Energy, despite the company being the largest contributor to Virginia political campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats.[14] Although early polling showed Platt in the lead,[15] Fairfax significantly outraised both of his opponents[16] and proved victorious in the primary election, carrying about 49% of the vote.[17][18]

Fairfax then faced Republican nominee Jill Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County, in the general election.[6] Fairfax and Vogel raised comparable amounts of money for their campaigns—$3.9 million and $3.7 million, respectively.[19] A forum between Fairfax and Vogel was held at Piedmont Community College on August 9, 2017[20][21] and a debate between the two candidates was held at the University of Richmond on October 5.[22][23]

Noting that Fairfax had been largely unknown when he ran for Attorney General four years earlier, the Washington Post wrote that Fairfax had transitioned from "party crasher" to "party insider" in the time since, having "methodically done the work necessary to raise his profile and pay dues."[4] The Washington Post went onto endorse Fairfax in the race, calling him "bright, competent, well-versed" and "the much better choice".[24]

Fairfax's opposition to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines led to him being omitted from a small number of campaign flyers that were distributed by the campaign for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam. These flyers were released at the request of Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), which supports the pipeline - LIUNA had endorsed Northam (and Northam's running mate for Attorney General, Mark Herring, who was included on the flyer), but not Fairfax. As Fairfax is black, while Northam and Herring are both white, some activists criticized the Northam campaign's decision to accommodate LIUNA's request.[25][26] Fairfax responded to the controversy by saying, "This should not have happened, and it should not happen again, and there needs to be robust investment in making sure that we are communicating with African American voters and we are engaging our base."[26] The Fairfax campaign later remarked that the Democratic ticket was "working well together", adding "One piece of literature does not change that."[26] All houses that received the LIUNA flyers also received standard campaign flyers including Fairfax.[25][26]

In the final days of the campaign, former Virginia governor Douglas Wilder weighed in on the flyer controversy, saying that Fairfax had not "been dealt a good hand". Wilder endorsed Fairfax, but never endorsed Northam.[27][28] As the election drew to a close, Fairfax and Vogel aired attack ads against each other.[29]

Fairfax won the election by 5.5%.[30] He is only the second African-American in Virginia history to be elected to statewide office (the first being Douglas Wilder, who served as governor, as well as lieutenant governor).[31]


The lieutenant governor's position is part-time.[6] Fairfax announced in December 2017 that he will be leaving his law firm, Venable. His law partner at Venable, Larry Roberts, served as his campaign chairman during the election and is currently serving as his chief of staff.[32] In September 2018, Fairfax joined the law firm of Morrison & Foerster, continuing the historic practice of Virginia lieutenant governors maintaining employment while in office.[33]

As lieutenant governor, Fairfax is the first head of the Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association (DLGA), launched in August 2018.[34]

Political positions[edit]

Fairfax campaigning for state attorney general, 2013

On economic issues, Fairfax supports policies such as a $15 minimum wage,[8][35] action on student loan debt,[35][36] and more job training and apprenticeships for skilled trades such as electrician, welder, and machine operator.[8][35] Fairfax supports investment in transportation and infrastructure,[8] and implementation of Governor Terry McAuliffe's Virginia Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change.[36] Fairfax favors promotion of renewable energy such as wind and solar.[36]

Fairfax supports the Affordable Care Act[36] and an expansion of Medicaid to low-income Virginians.[36][37] He supports caps on campaign contributions.[36] Fairfax has expressed support for single-payer healthcare.[38]

On social issues, Fairfax supports abortion rights[39] and same-sex marriage.[36] He is supportive of gun control measures such as universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and an assault weapons ban.[37] He supports criminal justice reform,[40] and supports former Governor McAuliffe's restoration of voting rights to felons who have completed probation and parole terms.[36] Fairfax favors additional action to combat the opioid crisis,[40] and supports the decriminalization of the possession of limited amounts of marijuana for personal use.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Fairfax lives in Annandale, Virginia, with his wife and two children.[4] Fairfax's wife Cerina W. Fairfax is a dentist.[3]

Electoral history[edit]

Virginia Attorney General Democratic primary – June 2013[41]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark R. Herring 73,069 51.6
Democratic Justin E. Fairfax 68,542 48.4
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Democratic primary election – June 2017[18]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Justin E. Fairfax 252,226 49.22
Democratic Gene J. Rossi 59,616 11.63
Democratic Susan S. Platt 200,618 39.15
Virginia Lieutenant Governor general election – November 2017[42]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Justin E. Fairfax 1,368,261 52.72
Republican Jill H. Vogel 1,224,519 47.18
Write-ins Write-ins 2,446 0.09


  1. ^ Armour, Evanne. "One-on-one with Lt. Gov. candidate Justin Fairfax". WAVY-TV. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Johnson, Jason. "The Root Presents On the Run: 2017 Campaign Edition". The Root. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Patrick Wilson, How outsider Justin Fairfax broke through the Democratic Party in bid for lieutenant governor, Richmond Times-Dispatch (March 18, 2017).
  4. ^ a b c d e f Fenit Nirappil, Justin Fairfax's journey from party crasher to party insider, Washington Post (October 10, 2017).
  5. ^ a b Andrew Cain, Justin Fairfax running as Democrat for lieutenant governor, Richmond Times-Dispatch (May 2, 2016).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Matthew Barakat, Democrat Justin Fairfax wins lieutenant governor's race, Associated Press (November 7, 2017).
  7. ^ "A Rising Political Star, Justin Fairfax '05". Columbia Law School. January 16, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e Scott Shenk, Vogel, Fairfax in tight race for lieutenant governor, Free Lance-Star (October 29, 2017).
  9. ^ Editorial Board (May 19, 2013). "Endorsements for VA.'s Democratic Primary". Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  10. ^ Jenna Portnoy (May 2, 2016). "Democrat Justin Fairfax to run for lieutenant governor". Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Fenit Nirappil (May 23, 2017). "3 Democrats who never held office vying to be Virginia's lieutenant governor". Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  12. ^ Rachel Weiner (August 7, 2016). "Longtime Virginia prosecutor to seek lieutenant governor job". Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  13. ^ Antonio Olivo (January 6, 2017). "Former Biden chief of staff files to run for Va. lieutenant governor". Washington Post. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
  14. ^ Fenit Nirappil (May 24, 2017). "Democrats running for Va. lieutenant governor vow not to take Dominion money". Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  15. ^ Fenit Nirappil (March 28, 2017). "Virginia governor's-race poll: Democrat Perriello rises, now tied with Northam". Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  16. ^ Fenit Nirappil (June 6, 2017). "Northam has cash edge over Perriello in last stretch of Va. gubernatorial primary". Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  17. ^ Patrick Wilson (June 13, 2017). "Justin Fairfax wins Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  18. ^ a b "June 2017 Democratic Primary, Lieutenant Governor: Official Results". Virginia Department of Elections. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  19. ^ Patricia Sullivan, Democrats Fairfax, Herring win Virginia lieutenant governor, attorney general races, Washington Post (November 7, 2017).
  20. ^ Laura Vozzella (August 9, 2017). "Much-lampooned ultrasound bill revived in race for Va. lieutenant governor". Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  21. ^ {Patrick Wilson (August 9, 2017). "Justin Fairfax and Jill Vogel spar in first debate for LG". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  22. ^ Laura Vozzella (October 6, 2017). "Candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor battle over guns and minimum wage". Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  23. ^ Patrick Wilson (October 5, 2017). "Vogel says Fairfax not informed enough 'to talk intelligently' about issues". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  24. ^ The Post's endorsements in Virginia, Washington Post (October 18, 2017).
  25. ^ a b Wilson, Patrick. "Gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam campaign flier removes picture of LG candidate Justin Fairfax". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  26. ^ a b c d Nirappil, Fenit (October 19, 2017). "Black Democrat omitted from some Democratic campaign fliers in Virginia". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  27. ^ Andrew Cain (November 2, 2017). "Wilder endorses Fairfax for LG, says candidate 'has not been dealt a good hand'". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  28. ^ Norman Leahy (November 3, 2017). "Ralph Northam's campaign stumbles toward the finish". Washington Post. Retrieved March 24, 2018.
  29. ^ Patrick Wilson, Vogel, Fairfax close their race for lieutenant governor with attack ads, Richmond Times-Dispatch (November 4, 2017).
  30. ^ Fenit Nirappil (December 8, 2017). "Candidates for Virginia governor spent nearly $65 million combined — busting records". Washington Post. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  31. ^ Mabinty Quarshie, Virginia elects second African-American to statewide office, first Latinas to state house, USA Today (November 7, 2017).
  32. ^ Fenit Nirappil (December 23, 2017). "Justin Fairfax, Virginia's lieutenant governor-elect, to leave white-shoe law firm". Washington Post. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  33. ^ Laura Vozzella, Like part-timers before him, Virginia’s lieutenant governor gets a gig on the side, Washington Post (September 4, 2018).
  34. ^ "The Democrats' Latest Weapon Is…Lieutenant Governors? Yes, Really". Washingtonian. August 7, 2018.
  35. ^ a b c Fenit Nirappil, 3 Democrats who never held office vying to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Washington Post (May 23, 2017).
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campus Election Engagement Project, Justin Fairfax vs. Jill Vogel: Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For 2017 Virginia Lt. Governor's Race (September 28, 2017).
  37. ^ a b Fenit Nirappil, What does Virginia’s lieutenant governor even do? A guide to figuring out this race, Washington Post (November 6, 2017).
  38. ^ "Editorial: And now, the push for single-payer". Richmond Times-Dispatch. September 13, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2018. Several leading contenders for the party’s presidential nomination have come out in favor of single-payer health care, and some Democratic skeptics are now coming around. Here in Virginia, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax has endorsed the idea.
  39. ^ Bill Bartel, Voters have choices in Tuesday's lieutenant governor election, The Virginian-Pilot (November 3, 2017).
  40. ^ a b Nia Kitchin, Justin Fairfax Advocates For Criminal Justice Change In Race For Lieutenant Governor, Flat Hat News (October 31, 2017).
  41. ^ June 2013 Democratic Primary, Attorney General: Official Results, Virginia Department of Elections.
  42. ^ November 2017 General Election, Lieutenant Governor: Official Results, Virginia Department of Elections.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph Northam
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia