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Northam, Fairfax And Herring Hang On Jobs As Scandals Blow Over: NPR



Virginia Lt. Justin Fairfax tackles sexual assaults made by two women against him and presented the results of a polygraph test at a press conference at his office in the Capitol in Richmond, Va.

Steve Helber / AP


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Steve Helber / AP

Virginia Lt. Justin Fairfax tackles sexual assault claims by two women against him and presented the results of a polygraph test during a press conference at his office in the Capitol in Richmond, Va.

Steve Helber / AP

Lawmakers in Richmond have wrapped their 2019 legislative sessions, less than two months removed from a cascade of scandals involving Virginia's top three elected officials who caught the nation's attention for weeks.

GOV. Ralph Northam and lawyer Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface decades ago. Justin Fairfax, Lieutenant Governor, was charged with sexual assault by two women.

All three Democrats remain in the office, although they continued, but less intently, demanding their resignations.

Now, state legislators will leave the Capitol and head home to their respective districts to make their attention until November when all 140 seats in the Virginia legislature will be re-elected.

The campaign season starts now

In the upcoming monthly campaign Democrats will try to move beyond the embarrassment consumed by the Capitol and focus on trying to withdraw one or both legislative chambers.

Republicans, who have a narrow two-seat advantage in both Parliament and the Senate, are likely to remind the voters repeatedly that it was the democratic leadership of the state that cast the bright spotlight on Virginia.

As far as these leaders are concerned, they do not seem to be coming anywhere. Their seats are only in 2021, when Northam cannot apply for re-election due to time constraints.

And it seems that Virginia voters support these decisions, at least in the weeks following the scandals. According to the latest study available, a majority of voters said that none of the three Northam, Fairfax and Herring would be inhibited.

Will Fairfax and prosecutors testify publicly?

Fairfax spoke to journalists Wednesday in Richmond, one day after the second of two interviews with his prosecutors was broadcast on national television. He once again said that both meetings with the women were consensual and strongly denied the allegations of sexual assault.

He called on prosecutors in two states to investigate the allegations, an exercise that he says will do nothing but clear his "Good Name." He also gave the results of two polygraph tests, which he says he was "on the first try".

"I don't think national television broadcasts or regulatory hearings are the right vehicles to get to the truth," Fairfax said. .

At the end of February, delegation representative Rob Bell announced that both Fairfax's prosecutors and Lieutenant Governor himself would be invited to testify at a public hearing.

This week in separate interviews with Gayle King at CBS Fairfax's prosecutors continued pushing for the chance to testify publicly, while providing torn accounts and vivid details of what they say Fairfax did for them many years ago. .

Meredith Watson, who attended Duke University with Fairfax, said he raped her in 2000. This week, her lawyer issued a statement that her client preferred a public hearing on a study.

"We have focused on the Virginia Assembly – and a full public consultation, not months or years – long criminal investigation done in secrecy," Smith said.

Vanessa Tyson, now a political science professor in California, said Fairfax attacked her in 2004 in a hotel room in Boston under the Democratic National Convention. A lawyer for Tyson said she hoped that the Virginia legislature would give an avenue that would "justify all parties" while Virginians decide whether Fairfax should keep its job.

Virginia's Republicans have blamed Democrats for blocking attempts to hold a hearing and come to the bottom of the accusations. If and when the public hearing will take place is an open question.

After its press conference on Wednesday, Fairfax did not question journalists. As he walked away from cameras, a journalist shouted, "at what point are you just going off?"


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