Why Virginia’s attorney general race will attract national attention

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — While Virginia’s gubernatorial race is still shaping up, we have a good idea of how the ballot will look for the race for attorney general.

The presumptive nominees are Democratic incumbent Mark Herring and Republican lawyer John Adams — the only candidates to qualify from their respective parties.

The attorney general is essentially the state’s top lawyer.

“The attorney general can have a lot of leeway in terms of how the law is implemented and interpreted throughout the state of Virginia,” said political analyst Richard Meagher.

Herring is seeking a second term. Adams, who is new to politics, went into private practice with McGuireWoods in 2010. He has also served as an Associate White House Counsel and as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office. 

As one of only two states with statewide elections this year, Meagher says national attention — and money — will be pouring in to the campaigns in the Commonwealth.

The attorney general enforces the state’s laws, prosecutes them in court and has to argue the state’s case as cases move up the system.

Meagher says a Democratic attorney general would have a different approach than a Republican attorney general, for example, when it comes to health care, Medicaid or gun rights.

Herring has served in the role since winning the 2013 election. Adams, trying to differentiate himself from the incumbent, considers himself “a Virginian, not a politician.”

Meagher says in the current political environment, which isn’t friendly toward partisanship in general, positioning oneself as an outsider is helpful.

Even more important than the insider-outsider dynamic, according to Meagher, is the national political landscape.

“People across the country are going to be wondering, has Trump’s election in 2016 fired up Democrats enough that they’re going to strongly oppose Republicans — even in this kind of smaller, off year statewide election in Virginia?” he said.

The election is on November 7.  A primary election for the House of Delegates and the governor will be held on June 13.