Who is Justin Fairfax? Amid Northam controversy, the Lt. Governor could be next to lead Virginia

When attorney Justin Fairfax was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor last year, surely he never imagined the scandal, shock and outrage surrounding Governor Ralph Northam -- with a racist photo in Northam's medical school yearbook.

There are now resounding calls for Northam to step down, leaving Fairfax to step up and take over running the Commonwealth.

Now, Justin Fairfax could become the country's only African American governor if Governor Ralph Northam resigns.

"He was talking about the whirlwind of the last 24 hours because he basically had to prepare to be governor. He had talked to Ralph Northam at multiple points. And Ralph Northam made clear to him he should be prepared in the event he resigns. But Ralph Northam also said he does not plan to resign," said Fenit Nirappil, politics reporter for The Washington Post.

At 39 years old, the attorney, husband, father and Democrat is the second African American in history to be elected to statewide office in Virginia. By all accounts, he's considered a rising star in politics.

"Justin Fairfax entered the world of Virginia politics as an outsider. He made his first run in his early 30s in 2013 and he ran for Attorney General. And he shocked everyone because they were all wondering 'who is Justin Fairfax?' 'where did he come from?' he never held political office before and was running for top positions in Virginia," said Nirappil.

In video posted on Fairfax's YouTube page during his first run for public office in 2013 in the Democratic primary for Attorney General, he said:

"I will fight to defend our Constitutional rights, to make sure we have more economic security and opportunity for all of our families and to ensure that all of our citizens are treated equally under the law, no matter where they're born, what their last name is or who they love."

Fairfax lost the race for Attorney General by three points but won over members in his own party and many Virginians.

"Anyone who tried to harm Virginia families either physically or financially has one major problem, me," said Fairfax in the YouTube clip.

Even so, long before political ambitions struck, the DeMatha Catholic High School and Duke University graduate was a successful Columbia Law School trained attorney and federal prosecutor in northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

He specialized in fighting major crimes, narcotics, and human trafficking across the Commonwealth.

"It's going to be a real leadership test for Justin Fairfax. He was widely expected to run for governor in 2021, but if he rises to the governorship with Ralph Northam's resignation,he's going to be taking the help of the Commonwealth of Virginia at a painful time, when across the state people are reckoning with race and the history of racism," said Nirappil.

Now the calls are coming in for Fairfax, a Fairfax County resident to heal Virginia's wounds and move the Commonwealth forward.

If Gov. Ralph Northam were to resign, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor of Virginia.

In his statement issued Saturday, Fairfax doesn't call for Northam to resign because of racist photo, but does say that he "cannot condone actions from (the governor's) past" that at least "suggest a comfort with Virginia's darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation."