NORFOLK, Va. - The central question of the upcoming primary for Virginia attorney general and potentially the general election in November: Should Virginia voters send Mark Herring back for a third term, or is it time for a change?
Herring, 59, who has been attorney general since 2014, is facing a primary challenge on June 8 from Norfolk Delegate Jay Jones.
"I've shown people that I can not only do the job but do it exceedingly and abundantly well, and I've proven twice that I can win statewide and keep this job in Democratic hands and continue to fight for the values that we share," said Herring.
"I think we have an opportunity and a chance to elevate new faces, new voices and fresh perspectives," said Jones, who's Black and 32 years old.
Herring touts accomplishments like helping end the state's ban on same-sex marriage and looking out for Virginia consumers.
"What we want to have in Virginia and [what] Virginia Democrats want is an experienced attorney general who can take on the big issues and continue to build on the progress we've been making," said Herring.
Jones is in his second term as a state delegate and says the race is about the future, not the past.
"I'm running because we've seen progress. That is not in question, but there is so much more work to do," said Jones. "I think we need a new attorney general for this new Virginia decade who is going to be proactive, not reactive."
Jones was motivated to run due to the push for criminal justice reforms after incidents like the murder of George Floyd last year. He accuses Herring of needing prodding to back some of these reforms.
"Frankly, I believe Mark has failed to bring real reform on policing and civil rights. We've got to end qualified immunity so we can hold our police accountable."
Ending qualified immunity would make it easier for people to sue police officers. Herring says he supports Congress passing a law to end it because he says qualified immunity is used as a defense in federal lawsuits. He defends his record on criminal justice, saying Republicans were in control of the state Capitol for several of his years in office.
"Now that we have a Democratic majority, I've been able to work with them to pass new laws to help make policing safer and to bring a lot of criminal justice reforms," said Herring.
The winner will face Republican Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares in November.