Former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder is among the co-chairs for the inaugural gala for Lt. Gov.-elect Justin Fairfax on Friday, Jan. 12 in Richmond.
Although most may focus on the swearing-in of Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, many from the District and beyond will cheer on Fairfax, the longtime D.C. resident who took the Democratic Party by storm and stunned Republican Sen. Jill Vogel in November to win the race for lieutenant governor.
At noon on Jan. 12, Fairfax will become the first African-American sworn in to statewide office in Virginia since 1989.
The theme of the inauguration, “The Way Ahead,” articulates a vision for leading a Virginia with bipartisan, common-sense solutions that lift up all of its people, Fairfax and Northam said in a joint news release.
Whether it’s taking advantage of new economic opportunities, finding oneself in serving others, or educating Virginia’s children with boundless potential, Fairfax and Northam said they believe the best way forward is by working together in a unified commonwealth.
Earlier, Fairfax said his and the many 2017 election victories for Virginia Democrats could “be the match that sparks the wildfire of progressive” change all across the country.
“All across the world. This is a battle for the nation’s soul,” Fairfax said. “Since I announced my candidacy, this campaign has been about the future, about building a Virginia where all of us have the opportunity to rise.”
Most saw victories by Democrats as a referendum on President Donald Trump, whose record low job approval rating had shrunk to 39 percent by election night, according to various reports.
Republicans lost races for governor in Virginia, where Northam easily beat Trump-backed Ed Gillespie, and in New Jersey, where former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy won election as governor, defeating Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Also, in Virginia, attorney general Mark Herring, a Democrat, won reelection over Republican John Adams while Democrats gained at least 10 seats in the House of Delegates.
“The results were a backlash to Trump and Trumpism, pure and simple,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus also engaged voters.
“The vote is precious, almost sacred,” said Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.). “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society, [so] use it.”
Voters apparently used that tool and Fairfax said he’s delighted they picked him.
Growing up, he said, he didn’t have much money but was surrounded by family love and spiritual wealth. After his parents’ divorce, he, his mother and his three older siblings moved into his grandparents’ house in the District, until his mom could save enough to buy her own house across the street.
The neighborhood had transformed from a close-knit middle-class community to one ravaged by a growing drug epidemic, increasing violence and dwindling economic opportunities, so Fairfax said he learned early on how fragile the future can be, watching the lives of many friends and neighbors unravel in the face of unexpected challenges because they didn’t have the same strong network of support.
Defying long odds, Fairfax’s mother put all four of her children through college — and two through law school.
He received scholarships to Duke University, where he graduated with a degree in Public Policy Studies, and to Columbia Law School, where he was selected for the Columbia Law Review.
During his career, Fairfax has worked in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, developing a keen insight into solving the challenges that face Virginia families today.
As an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Deputy Coordinator of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, Fairfax said he witnessed the power that law enforcement and criminal justice reform can have to keep communities safe, while providing appropriate second chances, saving hard-earned taxpayer dollars and changing communities and lives.
As a small-business owner with his wife, Dr. Cerina Fairfax, Fairfax said he understands the importance of strengthening and diversifying Virginia’s economy. And as a father of a young son and daughter, he knows how important economic stability is for our children’s future, he said.
“The challenges Virginia families face today are unprecedented — when one bad life event can turn into a cascade of failures [and] it doesn’t have to be that way,” Fairfax said. “As lieutenant governor, [I] will work every day to build the foundation of economic and educational opportunity that every Virginian deserves and that will make our commonwealth an even better place to live, work, raise a family, and grow a business.”