RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Attorney General Mark Herring defeated primary challenger Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones (D-Norfolk) on Tuesday, securing the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s attorney general race in his quest for a third term in office.
Herring’s opponent in the Nov. 2 general election will be Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach), who won the Republican nomination for attorney general in last month’s Virginia GOP convention.
While it’s unclear how the general election will turn out, Virginia’s recent status as a blue state had some considering Del. Jones as Herring’s toughest competition in his re-election bid.
“Tonight’s result is disappointing, but we will not let it deter us from continuing the fight to bring true reform to Virginia,” Jones said in a statement congratulating Herring. “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.”
Since sweeping the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2009, Republicans have not won a statewide election in Virginia.
Herring, a former state senator from Loudoun County, was expected to run for governor this year before flipping the script and announcing his intentions to run for a third term. During his campaign, Herring touted his office’s work to eliminate Virginia’s backlog of untested rape kits, protect people’s access to health care and also highlighted recent victories in court defending coronavirus restrictions imposed by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).
“This primary was a referendum on the progress we have made on civil rights, criminal justice reform, healthcare access, clean air and water, victims’ rights, gun violence prevention, and consumer protection, and voters made it clear that they want to keep the progress going,” Herring said in a statement after winning the nomination.
The two-term incumbent picked up key endorsements from Democratic leadership in the House of Delegates, but not one from Northam after saying the governor should resign in 2019 following a blackface scandal surrounding Northam’s medical school yearbook. Herring later admitted to wearing blackface while in college but never faced the same pressure to resign as Northam did.
Called “the Commonwealth’s law firm,” Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General can conduct or assist certain criminal investigations and prosecutions, provide information to the public on scams and enforce state consumer protections laws. Among several other duties, the attorney general can also issue official legal opinions to lawmakers and give legal advice and representation to the governor and state government agencies.
One of Herring’s most consequential decisions as attorney general came just weeks after he took office when he deemed Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. As attorney general, Herring has also defended Northam’s authority to order the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue.
“I also extend my best wishes and congratulations to Del. Jay Jones, his family, and his team for running a strong race that helped energize Virginia Democrats,” Herring’s statement continued. “I look forward to moving into November as a strong, united party as we continue to move Virginia forward.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.