Justin E. Fairfax, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, is the next in line to become governor should Gov. Ralph Northam step down.
Mr. Northam is under intense pressure to resign after initially admitting and then denying that he posed in a racist costume as a medical student more than 30 years ago. A photo of two people dressed in blackface and as a member of the Ku Klux Klan appeared on Mr. Northam’s page in a 1984 yearbook.
After acknowledging Friday night that he was in the photo and apologizing, Mr. Northam said at a news conference on Saturday that he was now sure it wasn’t him and resisted widespread calls to resign.
Here is some of what you should know about Mr. Fairfax:
• Mr. Fairfax, 39, a Democrat, was elected lieutenant governor in November 2017, becoming only the second African-American elected to statewide office in Virginia.
• He is a descendant of slaves. When he was sworn in last year as lieutenant governor, his father, Roger Fairfax Sr., gave him his great-great-great grandfather’s manumission papers from 1798.
“As I raised my right hand to take the oath of office as lieutenant governor of Virginia, I had in my breast pocket the papers that freed my three-greats-ago grandfather,” Mr. Fairfax told the Virginia television station NBC 12.
• There were at least five black candidates for governor in 2018, including in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin. No black candidate won any election for governor, which would make Mr. Fairfax the only current black governor in the United States if Mr. Northam resigns.
• Mr. Fairfax would be Virginia’s second African-American governor. The first, Douglas Wilder, served from 1990-94. Mr. Wilder was also the first African-American to be elected governor in the United States.
• Mr. Fairfax last month silently protested tributes at the State Senate for the Civil War generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Both times, Mr. Fairfax, who presides over the Senate, quietly stepped away and let a Republican carry out the tributes.
“There are people in Virginia history that I think it’s appropriate to memorialize and remember that way, and others that I would have a difference of opinion on,” Mr. Fairfax said to reporters after he protested General Jackson’s tribute. “I just wanted to, in a very respectful but very definite way, make it clear that these were not adjournment motions that I felt comfortable presiding over, and I was not going to do it.”
• He graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy studies in 2000 and earned his law degree at Columbia Law School.
• He served as an assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in the major crimes and narcotics unit of the Alexandria division.