Virginia Democrats pledge to impeach Democratic Lt. Governor accused of sexual assault

Democrats from the Commonwealth of Virginia provided Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax with an ultimatum on Friday, giving the accused serial sex offender until Monday to resign or face impeachment proceedings. These demands came just hours after a second woman emerged with allegations that Fairfax raped her. They represent the latest development in a series of recent scandals that have shocked the state.

Unsettling ultimatums

Democrat Patrick Hope of the Virginia House of Delegates is behind the efforts to force Fairfax’s resignation. In a series of Friday evening tweets, Hope insisted that articles of impeachment are “the only way for Virginia to have the investigation that LG Fairfax has demanded.”

Fairfax has demanded “a full investigation” into what he called “unsubstantiated and false allegations.” He insists that a full accounting of the facts will clear his name.

Citing the “large media interest” resulting from his impeachment announcement, Hope later held an impromptu press conference to elaborate on his position. “The constitution of Virginia says very clearly that impeachment will be for a high crime or misdemeanor. There’s no question that violent sexual assault clearly qualifies as a high crime,” he said.

Two accusers

Fairfax’s first accuser, Dr. Vanessa Tyson, anonymously alleged on Monday that the lieutenant governor assaulted her during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. After obtaining legal counsel, Tyson later provided explicit details of her encounter.

“[Fairfax] put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants,” Tyson said, remembering how she was “forced” to “perform oral sex on him.”

Meredith Watson, Fairfax’s second accuser, attended Duke University with her assailant in 2000, when she claims he “raped” her. Watson’s legal counsel released a public statement calling the assault “premeditated and aggressive,” and they claim to possess contemporaneous emails and Facebook messages which Ms. Watson sent to her friends reporting the rape after it occurred.

“Due to the lateness of the session, in order to introduce any new resolution, the House of Delegates will have to grant me unanimous consent. I would hope that no member would stand in the way of this process getting under way.”

During Friday’s press conference, Hope told reporters that he would need the “unanimous consent” of legislators to move forward with impeachment proceedings due to “the lateness of the session.” He continued: “My hope — my sincere hope — is that this will not be necessary, and the lieutenant governor will heed the calls of many to resign this weekend,” the delegate explained. “If he does not, we will move forward on Monday.”

Democratic chorus

Besides Hope, Fairfax has received calls to resign from other corners within the Democratic Party. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and Democratic Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Bobby Scott are among the Virginia lawmakers demanding Fairfax’s resignation.

The state’s political future remains uncertain as a result of Fairfax’s alleged sexual deviancy. Ralph Northam (D), Virginia’s recently elected governor, stands accused of appearing in a racist college yearbook photo and a growing chorus of voices have demanded his immediate resignation.

Fairfax is first in line to succeed Northam, although with his own scandal brewing it is highly unlikely that he will survive politically. That leaves Attorney General Mark Herring to assume the mantle of state leadership, but the top Virginia prosecutor shocked Richmond on Wednesday when he, too, admitted to appearing in racist blackface photos during the 1980s.

It is difficult to imagine a scenario where any of these three embattled Virginia Democrats are able to ride out the political firestorms they are facing and remain in office. If all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would become governor.

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