Virginia lieutenant governor enters race for governor

FILE - In a Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 file photo, Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax speaks during the 9th Annual wreath laying and ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, in Washington. Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax formally kicked off his campaign for governor Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020 a year after facing two allegations of sexual assault.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

FAIRFAX, Va. – Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax formally kicked off his campaign for governor Saturday, a year after facing two allegations of sexual assault.

Fairfax delivered a campaign speech at the Old Court House in Fairfax in northern Virginia.

In February 2019, Fairfax faced calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats after two women publicly accused him of sexual assault.

Meredith Watson, who attended Duke University with Fairfax, said he raped her in 2000. Vanessa Tyson, a California professor, said Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex when they both attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004.

Fairfax has denied the allegations and accused the women of being part of a “smear campaign” to end his political career.

“The voters are incredibly smart. They see through this kind of destructive, politically motivated kind of politics. And they are ready to move to higher ground," he told The Associated Press this week.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Debra Katz, Tyson's attorney, renewed calls for a public hearing by the General Assembly on the allegations. Democrats have previously rejected those calls.

“Apparently Lt. Governor Fairfax believes that the citizens of the Commonwealth have forgotten about the serious and credible allegations of sexual assault made against him by Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson and about his deplorable treatment of them after they came forward," Katz said in a statement.