NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY/WFXR) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has endorsed Norfolk Del. Jay Jones in the 2021 race for attorney general over the incumbent candidate, Mark Herring.
“It is time for a new generation of leaders to take the reins,” Northam said in a statement on Thursday, March 4. “Jay Jones has stood with me every step of the way in our journey to make Virginia a more just and equitable place to live. He has been my partner as we have worked to change our Commonwealth.”
Jones, a Democrat, has represented Virginia’s 89th District since 2018. The 31-year-old would be Virginia’s first ever Black attorney general.
Northam pointed to Jones’ work to help with criminal justice reform and consumer and environmental protections in his endorsement. Jones’ bill to allow first responders sick with COVID-19 to receive workers’ compensation also recently passed in the General Assembly.
“I couldn’t be more humbled to receive Governor Northam’s endorsement in this race,” Jones said. “He leads with conviction and has ushered in a new era of equity, optimism, and prosperity in this Commonwealth for all Virginians, no matter what you look like or where you come from. Simply put, Ralph Northam is the most consequential governor in the history of this Commonwealth.”
The news certainly sent out ripples in the Virginia political world. Northam opted not to endorse his current Attorney General Mark Herring, who’s running for a third term this year.
Some have considered it political payback after Herring called for Northam to resign in the wake of his blackface scandal in 2019, days before Herring admitted he too wore blackface in college.
Jones also recently took a jab at Herring after Herring announced the creation of a new Office of Civil Rights in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. Jones, who had made the creation of the office a key part of his campaign, called Herring’s move a “political stunt.”
“Why did Mark Herring finally see the light after seven years of inaction?” Jones said. “… We must know if he acted in the interest of the commonwealth or if he used taxpayer funded resources to benefit his own reelection. Mark Herring pledged in 2013 to take ‘politics out of the Attorney General’s office’ but now in the middle of a re-election campaign he is using his government office to protect his own ambition.”
The Herring campaign shared the following statement with WFXR News in response to Northam’s endorsement of Jones:
“A contested primary is the sign of a healthy Democratic Party of Virginia — and points to how we’ve been able to demonstrate the power of the office of Attorney General to make a difference for the people.”
It’s not clear how much Northam’s endorsement will affect Jones’ polling. In the most recent poll on statewide candidates conducted by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center, Herring was leading Jones 42% to 3% among Democratic voters, but 50% of voters were still undecided.
Meanwhile Midlothian Supervisor Leslie Haley, Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares, and former Navy JAG officer Chuck Smith are running on the Republican side.