Attorney General Mark Herring and Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) laid out competing visions for the Office of Attorney General in their first debate Tuesday.
Herring said the attorney general should work for safety, justice, equality, and opportunity for all Virginians. “I believe the attorney general should be the people’s lawyer,” Herring said.
In his opening remarks, Miyares cited his experience as a prosecutor, “which I think is so important when you’re running to be Virginia’s top cop,” he said.
The debate was hosted by the Virginia State Bar (VSB); Democratic blog Blue Virginia captured video of the live stream. VSB Immediate Past President Marni Byrum asked the candidates questions about topics including the individual mandate of the American Care Act, protecting voting rights in Virginia, battling gender discrimination, and ending qualified immunity. But the candidates often didn’t directly answer the questions, instead attacking each other on perceived weaknesses.
Herring repeatedly focused on Miyares’ House of Delegates votes against bills that later became law, questioning if Miyares would enforce laws he had voted against. Miyares repeatedly mentioned the Virginia Parole Board (VPB), painting Herring as more friendly to criminals than to victims.
In response to a question about addressing gun violence in Virginia, Miyares said gun violence is linked to repeat offenders, not proliferation of guns. He said that Herring had turned down money to prosecute gun violence involving legal immigrants because federal law required reporting those cases to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Mark Herring refused to prosecute gun violence cases because he was more interested in protecting a far-left political agenda as part of this far-left liberal monopoly that we have here in Richmond. That’s the difference. I will prosecute gun violence cases while Mark Herring has refused to do so,” Miyares said.
Herring said he has gone after the gun lobby and supported expanded background checks, red flag laws.
He said, “87 percent of homicides are committed by people with guns, 50 percent of robberies are committed by people with guns. And Jason Miyares would put more guns out on the street so that they would be armed even more. So, if you want to talk about stopping violence, we’ve got to focus on the gun violence problem that we have, and that means taking on the gun lobby.”
Herring said Miyares would support the gun lobby with less regulation.
“These are laws that are common-sense, that are supported by a large percentage of Virginians, that will actually do things like make our community safer. And Jason Miyares voted against every single one of them because he will side with the gun lobby instead of the victims of gun violence,” Herring said.
In his rebuttal, Miyares said, “By the way, let’s talk about gun violence. Mark Herring is part of this parole board and signed off on them letting off David Simpkins.”
Miyares said Simpkins had previously been convicted of 56 prior felonies. In May Simpkins was sentenced to 22 years after allegedly robbing a gas station, according to MDMH Roanoke.
Miyares said, “Mark Herring allowed that to happen. He deserves to lose his job.”
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