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Northam Endorses Herring Rival in Attorney General Race

AP Photo / Steve Helber

The Democratic primary for attorney general is heating up. And a surprising endorsement might change the dynamics of the race.

In a major snub to incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, Governor Ralph Northam is endorsing his opponent in the Democratic primary — Delegate Jay Jones of Norfolk. Northam says he's endorsing Jones because he says it's "time for a new generation of leaders."

Quentin Kidd is a political science professor at Christopher Newport University.

"By all measures, Democrats aren't unhappy with Mark Herring as attorney general. He's done a lot of things that make the progressive end of the Democratic coalition happy," explains Kidd. "But I think at the end of the day Democrats are looking at the potential of an all-white ticket and that concerns them."

The incumbent attorney general would be running for a third term, and he's already picked up a number of key endorsements of his own -- including one from House Majority Leader Charniele Herring.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says Democrats view Mark Herring’s time in office as a success in terms of criminal justice reform, healthcare, gay rights and consumer protections.

"That commitment to progressive causes on the part of Herring as attorney general has really endeared him to a lot of constituencies in the Democratic Party," says Farnsworth. "It seems quite unlikely that he will be dislodged in a primary, and so the effectiveness of this endorsement is I think an open question."

The Democratic primary is about three months from now on June 8th.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.