In the race to serve as the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, two-term incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D-VA) is challenged by Delegate Jason Miyares (R-VA 82nd).
The attorney general has a constitutional responsibility to provide legal advice to the state government, including the governor and the General Assembly, to defend the state in lawsuits, and to defend the constitutionality of state laws. The attorney general is also second in the line of gubernatorial succession, after the lieutenant governor.
Traditionally, the attorney general’s office is used as a political stepping-stone for higher office and campaigns for the office often become inappropriately politicized. In considering the Off on a Tangent endorsement, I only consider issues that are germane to the role of the attorney general—mainly legal competence.
Virginia attorney generals must be at least thirty years old, citizens of the United States, and hold the qualifications to be a “judge of court record.” They are elected to four-year terms and there are no term limits.
Incumbent: Mark Herring (D)
Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D-VA) is nearing the end of his second term and stands for reelection as the Democratic Party nominee.
Herring earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Virginia, and a law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law. He served as Town Attorney for Lovettsville, Virginia, from 1992 to 1999, and worked in private practice at his law firm in Leesburg, Virginia.
He served on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2003, then unsuccessfully sought election to represent the twenty-seventh district in the Senate of Virginia. In 2006, he was elected in a special election to represent the thirty-third district in the Senate of Virginia. He was reelected to that seat in general elections in 2007 and 2011.
In 2013, Herring sought election as Attorney General of Virginia. He was certified the winner by the slimmest of margins, however Off on a Tangent cannot independently verify the outcome of that election. In 2017, he was reelected by a comfortable margin.
If reelected for a third term, Herring says that he will work to reduce gun violence, keep our children safe, combat the opioid epidemic, and build safer communities. Typical of our overly politicized elections for attorney general, he also claims he will prioritize numerous issues have nothing to do with his job: promote economic opportunity, promote diversity, defend what he euphemistically calls “reproductive justice” (i.e., abortion), and protect the environment.
This kind of political posturing for a naturally apolitical office is frustrating. The attorney general is supposed to serve not as a political executive, but as a lawyer. Think of him as the state’s defense attorney. But this has become “par for the course” as many candidates for this office plan to seek higher (and more distinctively political) offices in the future.
Herring’s political campaign rhetoric is normal. His service in office, however, has not been.
His official actions have been transparently political and often have only a tangential relationship to the Constitution of Virginia and the laws of the commonwealth. He has turned his role as the state’s attorney into a kind of unilateral shadow government. He re-interprets laws he doesn’t like until they are unrecognizable, or just ignores them entirely. He advocates for new laws that would undermine the human rights of the people he is supposed to be serving. He speaks proudly of reversing his predecessors’ legal advice when it had effects he didn’t like, regardless of whether that advice was correct under the law.
If Herring were using his office as a stepping-stone for a run for governor, senator, or president, I would assume that he was just establishing his hard-left bona-fides for a Democratic Party that is going further and further off the deep end. But he has not sought higher office. He has served two terms in an office where most only serve one, and now he seeks a third.
Herring wants to stay right where he is because his poisonous, hyper-political spin on this office has made him one of the most powerful and influential people in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And he wields much of that power in the shadows where the public isn’t looking.
Challenger: Jason Miyares (R)
Delegate Jason Miyares (R-VA 82nd) stands as the Republican Party nominee for Attorney General of Virginia.
Miyares holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from James Madison University and a law degree from the William and Mary School of Law. He served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Virginia Beach, as a campaign manager for former Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA 2nd), and as a partner at the political consulting firm Madison Strategies.
In 2015, Miyares successfully sought election to represent the eighty-second district in the Virginia House of Delegates, becoming the first Cuban American to serve in that body. He was reelected in 2017 and 2019 and is currently serving his third term. He says that he has been “a conservative voice in Richmond, standing up against the Defund the Police movement and proudly standing with our law enforcement community.”
If elected as attorney general, Miyares promises to crack down on violent crimes, support law enforcement, restore an apolitical sense of law-and-order, fight against human trafficking, enforce immigration laws, and create a task force to deal with criminals who defraud senior citizens. Less directly related to the duties of the office, he also promises to support pro-business policies, laws to improve the integrity of our elections, and improvements to public education.
I am pleasantly surprised to see that Miyares’s campaign materials rarely stray into those issues unrelated to the role of the attorney general. Unlike the incumbent (and many previous candidates for the office), he seems to know what the job is and stays mostly focused on things that are related to it. Miyares also seems to know how badly the incumbent has abused his role, and how urgently we need to start undoing the damage he has done to the credibility of the office.
Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) has abused his office and seems content to keep doing it for as long as he can. He should have been impeached and removed ten times over for making the office of the Attorney General of Virginia into his own little shadow government. The Virginia General Assembly has failed to do its duty to protect the integrity of this important office. Now it is up to the voters.
The people of the Commonwealth of Virginia deserve an honest, dispassionate attorney general. The person in this office must uphold the Constitution of Virginia and the duly enacted laws of the state, without regard for their personal views, without corruption, and without bias. We don’t have that today; we have the opposite.
I would vote for a mashed potato before I would vote to reelect Herring. Luckily, it has not come to that. Delegate Jason Miyares (R-VA 82nd) is a worthy candidate who seems to understand the office and have the right priorities. Most importantly, he seems to know how urgently the apolitical integrity of the office must be restored.
I strongly endorse the election of Jason Miyares as Attorney General of Virginia.