Justin Fairfax is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and owns a dental practice with his wife. He is also a lawyer for the firm Venable LLP in Tysons Corner.
He narrowly lost to Mark Herring in 2013 for Attorney General of Virginia. He has earned the endorsements of many Democrats at the state and local level, including mayor of Roanoke and the Loudon County Board of Supervisors.
See also our podcast interview with Justin.
Why are you running to be the Lt. Governor?
I am running to be Lieutenant Governor because I want people to be able to live the American dream as I was able to. Growing up, my family did not have much money, but we had people who saw something in us and gave us opportunity to get a high-quality education. We had a community that supported and believed in me and that was invaluable to my overall success. I was able to graduate from college and law school which enable me to gain economic security. For me, public service is about making sure that more people get to take the same journey in life that I got to take. I will fight every single day to give everybody that same shot at the American dream. We are fighting for economic security and opportunity for all Virginians and everyone’s chance at a brighter future.
What qualities, characteristics, talents, or experience do you bring that would make you an effective Lt. Gov. for Virginia?
I would be an effective Lt. Governor because I’ve worked in all three branches of government, I am a small business owner with my wife, and because my life experience has given me important insight that will be helpful as a public servant. Owning a family small business has shown me what it takes to make an economy work for small businesses. As a government employee I witnessed how to turn politics into effective policy and what happens when the two are at odds.
My experiences growing up taught me that no matter where you are born, what your last name is, the color of your skin, how much money you have, or who you love, you should get a chance at the American dream and as Lieutenant Governor I will fight to make that happen.
What are the 2 to 3 issues on which you feel most passionate that you would want constituents to base their votes?
Economic security and opportunity for all Virginians: Increase the minimum wage, provide Virginians the skills, training, and certification to fill the 175,000 higher-paying “middle-skills” jobs currently open in the Commonwealth, and ensure equal pay for equal work.
Education: Make higher education affordable for all, work towards universal Pre-K, improve our K-12 public education system and allow students to refinance high-interest student loan debt.
Criminal Justice Reform: Our criminal justice system is broken and expensive. We need to take a smarter approach to juvenile justice, change the punitive priorities of our drug policies, and reduce recidivism rates for juveniles and adults. It costs more to incarcerate a juvenile in Virginia than it would cost to send them to any four year college or university in the state while the recidivism rate is extremely high. This is a waste of our financial resources and these individual lives. We need to create a system where people are not sentenced for minor offenses and have access to resources and opportunities when they get out.
What positions separate you from the other candidate(s)?
My focus on the economy is unique in this race, along with focusing on student loan debt and criminal justice reform. Another difference is that I am the only person in this race that has run a statewide campaign. I ran for Attorney General in 2013 and won just over 48% of the vote and the Washington Post endorsement. I have proven that I can get votes from every corner of the Commonwealth and that matters, particularly in an off year race with low projected turnout. Finally, I am the youngest candidate and the only African American candidate running for a statewide office this year and so bring a different perspective about the future I want to see in Virginia for myself and my two young children.
What was the event/ news item/ comment, that made you decide to run for Lt. Gov.?
There was no one moment that made me decide to run for Lt. Governor. I started this campaign over a year ago, in May of 2016, because I want to help create a brighter future here in Virginia. We need strong and visionary leaders who have the integrity to do what’s right and the courage to fight for it. For the last year I have used this campaign as a vehicle to to speak against the hateful things happening in our country. One night I will always remember is the night that the current president signed the horrific executive order for the unconstitutional, immoral travel ban that targeted our Muslim brothers and sisters. I joined with hundreds of protesters and volunteered with dozens of other attorneys to offer to represent those who were being unlawfully detained at Dulles airport. I am proud to say that everyone who was being detained pursuant to the executive order was allowed to go home that night. This just one example of what happens when the people rise up and resist what they know to be wrong. With the daily threats to our Virginia values coming from Washington, we need someone who will fight for what we believe in.
How can a Lieutenant Governor influence the legislation agenda in the state?
It is the Lieutenant Governor’s responsibility is to preside over the Senate and provide the tie breaking vote on legislation. Right now the Senate is divided 21-19 Republican to Democrat, meaning that there is a lot of opportunity for tie breaking votes which could determine which agenda passes.
Not only does the Lieutenant Governor have the duty to preside over the Senate and break ties, and sit on a number of boards and commissions, but the Lieutenant Governor also has the opportunity as a statewide elected official to speak directly to Virginians and advocate for their rights. I will emphasize how relevant democracy should be to people by fighting to improve their lives, and urging them to participate in electing leaders who will share their priorities. And, I will work to ensure that voting rights are strengthened in this Commonwealth, that nonpartisan redistricting replaces the current system of unaccountability in gerrymandered districts, and that we have campaign finance reform to curb the undue influence of special interests in our state government.
The Lieutenant Governor also serves as member of several other state boards, commissions and councils, including the Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the Center for Rural Virginia; the Board of Directors of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Tourism Authority; the Virginia Military Advisory Council, the Commonwealth Preparedness Council and the Council on Virginia’s Future.
Which of these boards are of most interest to you and why?
The Council on Virginia’s Future interests me the most as it focuses on improving the quality of life in the Commonwealth, as well as the state government’s effectiveness. The Council’s purpose is to provide a long-term focus on high-priority issues facing the Commonwealth, create government accountability for long-term strategies and an enhanced focus on outcomes. I want economic security and opportunity for all Virginians. That begins by making sure we all have the same opportunities to succeed and the resources as a Commonwealth to do so. Serving on this board would allow me to have a hands on role in the strengthening Virginia’s economy and make sure people had opportunities to move up and gain access to the American dream.
“The stakes are high for Virginians in 2017. Virginia Republicans are already following the Trump playbook of divisive rhetoric and vicious partisan attacks. But Justin is focused on uniting us around what matters — protecting and creating good-paying jobs for all Virginians.” — Gerry Connolly, U.S. Congressman VA 11th District
Ballotpedia page on Justin Fairfax
VPAP. Org Justin Fairfax campaign funding
Richmond Times-Dispatch article: (March 18, 20187) How outsider Justin Fairfax broke through the Democratic Party in bid for Lieutenant governor
Washington Post: (May 2 2016) Democrat Justin Fairfax to run for lieutenant governor