The attorney general of Virginia is a vital, if often overlooked, position, overseeing Virginia’s law firm — ensuring our government operates in a lawful manner and helping keep our families safe. The actions of the attorney general matter.
Having never run for office before, I got into the race because our current attorney general, Mark Herring, has repeatedly used the office to pursue his own personal political agenda rather than serve his client: the Commonwealth of Virginia. In doing so, he has placed Virginia's government directly against the will of its citizens. And while he has been focusing on his political agenda, our communities have become less safe.
This is unacceptable, and it must stop.
In just under two weeks, Virginians will decide who will serve as their top lawyer. They have a very clear choice.
While my opponent is a longtime career politician seeking a second term, I have never sought political office. I grew up in Virginia, and after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute, I served as a United States Naval Officer. After my naval service, I used the GI Bill to attend law school at the University of Virginia.
Since then, I have spent a good bit of time in public service: as a law clerk at the United States Supreme Court, a federal prosecutor, and as a lawyer to former President George W. Bush at the White House. For the last seven years, I have been in private practice.
But when I saw our current attorney general's actions, I knew I had to act.
Here is what you can expect from me as attorney general: First, I have a deep respect for our Constitution and the rights of my fellow citizens to decide for themselves what laws they wish to live under. So, when Virginians pass laws, I will defend those laws, even when I disagree with them. It's our law, and Virginians should expect their attorney general to defend their choices, not overrule us because he (or his major donors) doesn’t like them.
For example, Virginia is a right-to-work state, meaning we have decided we will not force our citizens to join a union or pay union dues to get a job. But Herring disagrees, so in a major case, he told the United States Supreme Court that Virginia thought school teachers in California, who just wanted to teach kids, should be forced to join a union in order to teach those kids. He has also refused to defend other laws that have been challenged, like our Voter ID law, forcing us to hire private lawyers (who won the case, by the way) and spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Second, I will work with our law enforcement partners to combat criminal activity and get ahead of the horrific opioid crisis. I served as a federal prosecutor, and the Police Benevolent Association endorsed my opponent four years ago, but after four years, it has switched its endorsement to me.
As a federal prosecutor, I worked with a team to successfully combat violent crime in our inner cities, and I will do the same as attorney general. And I will lead efforts to prosecute the heroin and opioids dealers who are supplying the drugs that kill nearly four Virginians a day, while also working with professionals to expand creative treatment options so our fellow citizens can get back on their feet.
On my opponent's watch, the opioid crisis has spun out of control, and our cities are seeing a major uptick in violence. Gangs, MS-13 in particular, have experienced rapid growth, and they are preying on the most vulnerable among us. It is time for fresh and experienced leadership to focus on keeping our communities safe.
Third, I will run a thoroughly professional office that will represent Virginia in a way that will make all Virginians proud.
Just last year, Attorney General Herring was successfully sued for firing a woman who complained about being paid less than her male counterparts — settling for almost $200,000 of our tax dollars, per The Roanoke Times. In addition, the Associated Press reported he used money from a Medicaid fraud settlement to give pay raises to select employees in the attorney general's office. Those funds had been initially slated for victims of human trafficking, and other state attorneys general used the funds for public education and health care. And, it was just recently announced the attorney general’s office is under investigation by the inspector general for waste, fraud, and abuse in relation to a case involving a large state settlement.
On the night before our first debate, Herring wrote his supporters and said he would be “the voice of the resistance” in Virginia. Stunning.
As attorney general, I won't be the voice for any party, faction, or group. I will be the lawyer for the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have had a lot of clients as a lawyer. But it would be the honor of my life to call my sole client the Commonwealth of Virginia.