AG Her­ring makes early en­try into 2021 Va. gov­er­nor’s race

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - NEWS - BY LAURA VOZZELLA

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Her­ring will make a run for gov­er­nor in 2021, at­tempt­ing to use his perch as the state’s top lawyer as a spring­board to the Ex­ec­u­tive Man­sion.

Her­ring, a Demo­crat who sur­prised many by tak­ing a pass on the 2017 gov­er­nor’s race, has been spread­ing the word to al­lies and donors in re­cent weeks. He con­firmed his plans to The Wash­ing­ton Post on Fri­day.

“Our work to re­duce gun vi­o­lence, pro­tect health­care, and push­back on the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion has been some of the most im­por­tant work I’ve ever done, and it’s made Vir­gini­ans’ lives bet­ter in real, tan­gi­ble ways,” he said in an email. “I’ve been re­ally hon­ored to play a part in build­ing a safer, stronger, more eco­nom­i­cally dy­namic and in­clu­sive Com­mon­wealth as a county su­per­vi­sor, a state se­na­tor, and as at­tor­ney gen­eral, and I think the best way to con­tinue that work would be as Gov­er­nor. There’s still a lot I want to ac­com­plish as at­tor­ney gen­eral, but when the time comes I’ll be ready.”

A for­mer state se­na­tor from Lees­burg, Her­ring, 57, is get­ting a jump on what could be a fierce com­pe­ti­tion for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. Lt. Gov. Justin Fair­fax is con­sid­ered a likely con­tender. Rich­mond Mayor Le­var Stoney and for­mer U.S. Rep. Tom Per­riello are of­ten men­tioned as pos­si­bil­i­ties.

“He’s the first. I’m sure he will not be the last,” said John Findlay, spokesman for the Repub­li­can Party of Vir­ginia. “We look for­ward to a very di­vi­sive Demo­crat pri­mary.”

Larry Roberts, Fair­fax’s 2017 cam­paign chair­man, said Fair­fax will an­nounce his plans “in due course.”

“At this time, he is fo­cused pri­mar­ily on pre­par­ing for the im­por­tant 2019 Gen­eral Assem­bly ses­sion, help­ing Democrats win con­trol of the Gen­eral Assem­bly in 2019, and ex­pand­ing eco­nomic se­cu­rity and op­por­tu­nity for all Vir­gini­ans,” Roberts said in an email.

Her­ring is a year into his sec­ond four-year term as at­tor­ney gen­eral. He con­sid­ered run­ning for gov­er­nor in the 2017 cy­cle but bowed out, avoid­ing a nom­i­na­tion bat­tle against his pop­u­lar for­mer Se­nate seat­mate, then-Lt.

Gov. Ralph Northam.

Northam, who won the gov­er­nor­ship last year against Repub­li­can Ed Gille­spie, de­clined to com­ment through Mark Bergman, se­nior ad­viser for the gov­er­nor’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, The Way Ahead PAC.

“The gov­er­nor’s got a pretty full plate ahead of him,” Bergman said. “He’s got a bud­get to roll out, he’s got a leg­isla­tive ses­sion ahead of him and leg­isla­tive elec­tions in the fall. It’s hard to com­ment on a race that’s three years away.”

In a string of sweep­ing ac­tions early in his first term, Her­ring mar­shaled the pow­ers of his of­fice to le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage, chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion ban and grant in-state tu­ition to cer­tain im­mi­grants who were in the coun­try il­le­gally.

The moves made him a star to some in the party’s lib­eral base, but also made him a tar­get of Repub­li­cans’ wrath. Her­ring had run for at­tor­ney gen­eral in 2013 on a prom­ise to take the pol­i­tics out of the of­fice — a swipe at his GOP pre­de­ces­sor, Ken Cuc­cinelli, a con­ser­va­tive who had used the post to in­ves­ti­gate a univer­sity cli­mate sci­en­tist and op­pose abor­tion rights.

Although Her­ring con­tends that all of his ac­tions were firmly rooted in the law, crit­ics con­tend he took the con­ser­va­tive pol­i­tics out of the of­fice and swapped them for the lib­eral va­ri­ety.


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