Democratic AG Candidates Focus on New Units

May 5, 2021

The Democratic primary for attorney general is entering its final phase, and the candidates are trying to draw distinctions between each other over how they will run the office.

In the time he’s been attorney general, Mark Herring has created an office of civil rights. He’s created a conviction integrity unit, and a worker protection unit. His opponent in the primary, Delegate Jay Jones, says the timing of some of that is dubious because it’s so close to an election.

But Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says many of those reforms couldn’t have happened when Republicans were in control of the General Assembly.

“Herring is responding to the times," Kidd says. "He’s responding to the things that voters are concerned about, and so it really doesn’t matter, quite frankly I think, to most voters whether Herring should have done this earlier or should have done this in a more focused way at some other time.” 

Jones says he wants to create his own unit, one that focuses on voter protection and election integrity.

“There is an element of I’ll see your unit and raise you another unit," says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

“I don’t think the organizational chart of the attorney general’s office really sets a lot of voter hearts afire," he adds. "But what it does do is speak to priorities, and so when they say, ‘This is a priority. I’m going to have a dedicated team for this or that;’ that’s one of the ways to win folks over.”

Herring says he’s been taking action all along to protect voters, but Jones says the AG’s office needs a separate unit to put a priority on it.

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