February 3, 2019


Who Is Justin Fairfax, Virginia's Lieutenant Governor? (Mitch Smith and Sandra E. Garcia, Feb. 2, 2019, NY Times)

When he was sworn in last year as Virginia's lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax kept in his pocket the document that freed his great-great-great-grandfather from slavery. When state legislators moved to honor the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Mr. Fairfax left the Senate dais as a form of quiet protest. And after a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, Mr. Fairfax offered his support for efforts to remove a statue of Lee. [...]

Mr. Fairfax, a married father of two, grew up in Washington, D.C., in a neighborhood that he described on his campaign website as having shifted "from a close-knit middle-class community to one ravaged by a growing drug epidemic, increasing violence, and dwindling economic opportunities." He attended Duke University on a scholarship, graduated with a degree in public policy and got a low-level job on Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, compiling briefing books for Mr. Gore's wife, Tipper.

"There was just sort of a dynamism and kind of an ebullience to him," said Bruce Jentleson, a Duke professor who worked in the State Department during Bill Clinton's presidency and who helped Mr. Fairfax get the job on the Gore campaign.

From there, Mr. Fairfax's career moved fast. He graduated in 2005 from Columbia Law School, where he worked on the Law Review, and served as an intern and clerk for a federal judge in Virginia, Gerald Bruce Lee.

Judge Lee, who later officiated at Mr. Fairfax's wedding and administered his oath of office as lieutenant governor, recalled one occasion when he granted a prisoner's handwritten habeas corpus petition because of an advanced legal analysis that Mr. Fairfax had performed as an intern.

"I knew that he wanted to be engaged in impactful work as a lawyer, and I detected early on that he was also interested in public service," said Judge Lee, who is now retired.

Zuberi Williams, who worked as a clerk for Judge Lee alongside Mr. Fairfax, recalled staying up late at night with him talking through legal issues in the case against Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an American citizen who was charged and ultimately convicted of training with Al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush.

"When you're thrown into the fire like that at age 24, 25," said Mr. Williams, now a state court judge in Maryland, "it's like baptism by fire."

When the clerkship ended, others picked up on Mr. Fairfax's political potential. He worked for a time for John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina and vice-presidential candidate, who described his ex-aide in an email on Saturday as "bright, idealistic and a natural leader." When Mr. Fairfax returned a few years later to work as an assistant federal prosecutor in Virginia, Judge Lee said, some in the courthouse referred to him as "Senator Fairfax."

"If he becomes governor, he'll combine the sunny, inclusive style of President Reagan and the hope and inspiration of President Obama," Neil H. MacBride, the former United States attorney who hired Mr. Fairfax and assigned him to help lead a sex trafficking task force, said in an email on Saturday.

Having been John Edwards's body man in 2004, he's basically already run in a national campaign.
Posted by at February 3, 2019 9:00 AM