Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said Thursday that he is “very hopeful about the future” and “thinking very seriously” about a gubernatorial run in 2021.

Fairfax, who faces sexual assault allegations by two women, said the scandal has raised his public profile for good.

“Many people a year ago would not have recognized me, now they really do,” Fairfax said. “People come up to me at gas stations, they say, ‘Hey, we recognize you. We love you. We know what they are saying about you is false.’ ”

Fairfax’s comments came during a roundtable with reporters to talk about his recent trip to England, where he traced familial ties with an English family that freed his great-great-great grandfather from slavery in Northern Virginia.

A compilation video of the trip shared on YouTube shows Fairfax walking through London’s Heathrow Airport, touring castles and spending time with the family of Nicholas Fairfax, whose ancestor freed Fairfax’s ancestor from slavery.

“Going on that trip and even leaving that trip, I was really inspired,” said Fairfax, who traveled to England with a delegation from Fairfax County. “I’m very hopeful about the future. We’ve gotten a lot of encouragement about future political steps. I’m thinking very seriously about 2021.”

The trip was paid for by Fairfax’s political fundraising arm, a spokeswoman said, adding that the lieutenant governor paid expenses related to his wife and children.

The lieutenant governor said Nicholas Fairfax was up to date on the scandals that have befallen Virginia’s top elected leaders.

“He told me he is appalled by what is happening to me and my family,” Fairfax said. “He said he knows it’s false and that it’s not OK.”

In February two women accused Fairfax of sexual misconduct. 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 in 2004 when they attended the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Fairfax has insisted the allegations are untrue and a “smear campaign” launched on the cusp of his likely ascent to higher office amid the blackface scandal that has plagued Gov. Ralph Northam.

The two women have for months requested a public hearing before the General Assembly, where they could testify under oath about their allegations. Fairfax and Democrats in the General Assembly have sought to block efforts by Republicans to hold the hearing, claiming partisan antics and arguing in favor of law enforcement investigations.

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mleonor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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