Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and his Republican challenger Del. Jason Miyares (R-82) largely stuck to campaign talking points during a debate hosted by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Oct. 13, with Miyares trying to pin a scandal at the Virginia Parole Board on Herring, and Herring portraying Miyares as dishonest, regressive and out of step with today’s Virginia.
In 2020, as part of a push to get eligible inmates out of prison, the state parole board released a number of people convicted in high-profile violent cases. An investigation by the state Office of the Inspector General also found that the parole board did not follow law or rules requiring notification to victims’ family members before those offenders were released. That incident devolved into a scandal along largely partisan lines, and in which Miyares said Herring should have stepped in and repeatedly accused Herring of a “criminal first, victim last mindset.”
“You have an obligation when you find a state agency, that’s failing at their job, when you find out they’re breaking the law, to hold them accountable. And if they continue to break the law, you take them to court if need be,” Miyares said.
“He has based his entire campaign on one issue, the parole board, but time and again, he’s been called out for getting the facts wrong and misleading voters by independent fact checkers and reporters,” Herring said. “And he’s gone out of his way to avoid saying what the job really is, and what he would do.”
Herring pointed to issues like Miyares’s past opposition to expanded access to healthcare, abortion rights and gun regulation, contrasting them to his own record.
“Jason has proven he is a conservative activist with a paper-thin record as a prosecutor who has no problem misleading voters, and Virginians can’t afford that,” Herring said. “We need to continue to build on our progress and keep Virginia moving forward.”
The Loudoun Chamber hosted the debate to put questions to the two candidates in November from the county’s business community, moderated by Chamber President and CEO Tony Howard and with questions from a panel of business leaders.
“I’m the pro-business candidate because I realize that right now, the thing that aggravates companies so much are these new regulations that come out of Washington and Richmond and strangle the life of these small business entrepreneurs,” Miyares said. “Big companies can afford these regulations. They can hire the accountants and lawyers to get around them. It’s the small business owners that are the first to get there in the morning and the last to leave at night, they’re the ones right now that don’t feel like anybody has their back.”
Herring pointed to Virginia’s record fifth time ranked as the “Top State for Business” by CNBC this year. He said Virginia’s friendly business climate is due in part to the work he has done to fight for marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, and against Confederate symbols. He said that attracts major investments like the new Amazon headquarters in Northern Virginia.
“All of these things are really important to making a business climate, businesses want to grow and expand in, and that businesses want to move to,” Herring said.
On questions of diversity, Herring pointed to the diverse staff in his office and his largely successful fight to take down Confederate monuments.
“How do you tell a Black man or a Black woman ‘you’re going to get a fair hearing inside this room’ when the courthouse is literally physically blocked by a monument to a system that would have enslaved and has enslaved billions? You can’t,” Herring said.
“I think one way to reflect the diversity of Virginia is by electing me. I’d be the first Hispanic ever elected to any statewide office in Virginia history,” Miyares said.
I’d be the first child of any immigrant ever elected as Attorney General.”
But most of the answers were steered back to the issues the candidates have been hammering all campaign.
“It’s not my job to supersede the judgment of the General Assembly and the governor,” Miyares said. “I’m not going to be loyal to any political party, I’m going to be loyal to the people of Virginia. That’s very different than Attorney General Herring, who has put everything through the partisan left-wing lens that has now captured, quite frankly, his own party.”
“There are stark contrast between the two of us on where we stand on issues that are of great importance to Virginians: our safety, our healthcare, our right to be treated equally. And on issue after issue, Jason’s record shows he is a right wing, Cuccinelli-style conservative who is out of step with where Virginians are,” Herring said.
The discussion was led by a panel including Chauvon McFadden, principal director of Crimson Wealth Strategies and vice chair of the Loudoun County Economic Development Authority; Stacey Metcalfe, Executive Director of Morven Park and chair of the Loudoun Chamber board; and Dorri O’Brien, Director of Western Region Government and Community Relations for Inova Health System.
The Loudoun Chamber will next host a House of Delegates candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 8 a.m. at the National Conference Center. Learn more at loudounchamber.org/events.