He grew up along North Capitol and Evarts in northwest D.C., and now Justin Fairfax will be the lieutenant governor of Virginia.
The hardworking Democrat defeated Republican Jill Vogel in the hotly contested race for the second-highest office in Old Dominion.
Fairfax’s win capped a banner night for his party as Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie to win the governor’s mansion and Mark Herring beat GOP candidate John Adams in the race for attorney general.
The race, in many ways, put President Donald Trump against his predecessor Barack Obama in the first showdown since Trump won the presidency.
While Obama campaigned for the Democratic ticket in Virginia, Trump pressed hard for state Republicans, particularly Gillespie, who adopted Trump’s race-baiting tactics.
Many experts and pundits said Tuesday’s elections offered the nation a window into how voters viewed Trump’s job performance and how effectively Democrats have corrected the problems that plagued the party in 2016 and mobilized a base desperate for victories.
The last few weeks of the Virginia contest turned especially bitter as the race tightened. Gillespie doubled down on a Trumpian message, promising a crackdown on violence by Latino gangs and pledging to protect controversial Confederate monuments.
The messaging was a major turn for the former Republican National Committee chairman, but had he been successful it would have meant Republicans nationwide would not be afraid to embrace Trump’s more populist, anti-establishment message come next year, NPR reported.
Northam, meanwhile, tried to unite Democrats’ centrist and progressive wings, although he upset the latter last week when he said he would be willing to sign a bill banning so-called sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, NPR reported.
But the night belonged to Democrats, who even turned longtime red state New Jersey blue, as former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy won election as governor, defeating Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, pollsters reported a record voter turnout for a non-presidential year. It proved important, particularly for Fairfax, who overcame a race in which Vogel interjected what many perceived as racial stereotypes in her bid to defeat him.
Fairfax said the race “could be the match that sparks the wildfire of progressive” change all across the country.
“This is a battle for the nation’s soul,” he 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.”
A Duke University graduate, Fairfax has worked in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, developing a keen insight into solving the challenges he and his team said 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.
He said his primary focus as lieutenant governor would be the economic security and opportunity for all residents.
“It is imperative that we give people the chance to rise to make a better future for themselves and their families” Fairfax said. “I support raising the minimum wage to a living wage, offering a state refinancing system for student loans and increasing access to affordable capital for small businesses.”
Fairfax also said he understands how individuals can be cynical and disheartened with the current state of politics. However, he’s refused to use that as an excuse and doesn’t want his constituents —including those in the African-American community — to miss the mark.
“I would encourage them to believe that we created our own destiny,” Fairfax said. “Democracy is a participation sport, meaning that we have to petition our leaders. We have to keep pressing for answers at every level of government and make our voices heard by not just voting but running for office.”
Raising the minimum wage should help level the playing field, Fairfax said.
“Focus on lowering college debt and making it easier for people to move from one level to the next economically,” he said of some of the pressing challenges facing African-Americans in Virginia. “I believe my work as a prosecutors, as an assistant U.S. attorney, positions me to understand some of the issues people face on both sides of the justice system.”