Incumbent Mark Herring won the Democratic nomination in the race for attorney general Tuesday, fending off a challenge from a state lawmaker who sought to cast Herring as insufficiently progressive.
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Herring, who is seeking a third term, will face Republican state Del. Jason Miyares in the November general election.
Herring is a former state senator who became attorney general in 2014 and was reelected easily in 2017. He pitched himself to voters as a progressive champion on abortion rights, gun control and immigrant-friendly policies and argued that his experience made him the best choice to keep the office in Democratic control.
Herring has touted his record battling former President Donald Trump’s policies in court, his work to eliminate Virginia’s backlog of untested rape kits, his defense of marriage equality, and his efforts to hold manufacturers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
Jones, a Black 32-year-old two-term delegate from Norfolk, argued it was time for change and sought to cast Herring as slow to respond to the reckoning sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last summer.
He repeatedly criticized Herring, who is white, for creating an animal rights unit before an office of civil rights. Jones said that as attorney general he would use the office to more aggressively investigate police shootings.
Jones issued the following statement, acknowledging his loss:
“I want to congratulate Attorney General Herring, Terry McAuliffe, and Delegate Hala Ayala on their victories tonight. I look forward to working relentlessly with Democrats throughout the Commonwealth to beat Republicans up and down the ballot this November.
“Tonight’s result is disappointing, but we will not let it deter us from continuing the fight to bring true reform to Virginia. We must elect leaders who will be proactive, not reactive and rise to meet this moment in our history. As we enter the new Virginia decade, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. I look forward to working in the House of Delegates to build on the progress we have made towards a Virginia that guarantees justice for every community.”Jay Jones
Another issue in the sometimes-contentious race was Herring’s acknowledgment in 2019 that he had worn blackface in college.
During a debate, Jones attacked Herring not for having worn blackface but for what he described as an insincere apology at the time to the legislative Black caucus.
Jones picked up Gov. Ralph Northam’s endorsement in a move seen as a significant snub of Herring. He also had the backing of former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, the first and only woman ever elected to statewide office in Virginia, and U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria.
Many other establishment Democratic figures, including two of the state’s most powerful Black lawmakers, had endorsed Herring.
Republicans, who haven’t won a statewide race in Virginia in over a decade, picked their nominees for this year’s statewide races in a multi-site convention process in May. Miyares, a former prosecutor and a member of the House of Delegates, will join gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin and lieutenant governor nominee Winsome Sears on the GOP ticket this