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Predatory Lending Takes Center Stage in Dem. AG Primary

Candidates in the Democratic primary for attorney general are clashing over predatory lending.

Attorney General Mark Herring is going on the offense against his rival in the Democratic primary. In a televised debate over the weekend, he accused Delegate Jay Jones of introducing a bill that would have allowed predatory lenders to take advantage of people in need of quick cash.

"When I was working to crack down on dangerous predatory lenders, Delegate Jones was actually supporting the predatory lenders and authored a bill that would have allowed them to charge 350% interest," Herring said. "These are hard-working, struggling Virginians just trying to get by."

At issue is a bill Jones introduced last year that would have allowed for loans of 36% interest plus a daily fee that could amount to 320% a year. At the time, advocates were worried that the bill Jones introduced would create a loophole for predatory lenders. Delegate Jones never withdrew the bill, although it never made it out of committee because the clock ran out and it was left in committee.

Jones ended up voting in favor of a different bill, one that Mark Herring made a rare personal appearance to support in committee.

"The attorney general knows that he and I supported the exact same bill," Jones said. "And I was happy to work with Delegate Bagby, the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, who has endorsed my campaign."

In the end, the Fairness in Lending Act closed all the loopholes. But the debate over how that happened has become a flashpoint in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

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.