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