Attorney General Mark Herring Expected to Win Democratic Primary

Our final analysis of the statewide Democratic primaries here in the Commonwealth of Virginia will focus on the contest for Attorney General. As a refresher, incumbent AG Mark Herring (D-Loudoun) is seeking a third term while facing opposition from Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk).

Jones tipped his hat in the ring at a time when Herring’s intentions to seek another term were (at least publicly) dubious at best. Yours truly had heard that Herring planned to run for re-election instead of making a bid for the governorship as early as 2019, well before Jay Jones had entered the race. To his credit, Jones has built an impressive, formidable campaign; not formidable enough, though, to defeat an 8-year incumbent with strong name recognition among Democratic voters.

A recent Roanoke College poll showed that Herring claimed half of primary voters while Jones trailed with just 20%, with 23% of Virginia voters undecided. Those numbers would have to be functionally meaningless for Jones to win.

If Jones wins, which is a (very) remote possibility, it would involve him dominating Hampton Roads, handily beating Herring in Richmond, holding his own ground in Northern Virginia and winning enough rural localities with high African-American populations. Still, this result would be a tough sell. Herring has outraised and outspent Jones throughout the campaign and has a two-term incumbency advantage.

The more pragmatic question at hand concerns how much of the vote Herring ends up winning. Depending on the margin, this primary could possibly help Jones with a future run at statewide office if he chooses to make a bid. 

We rate the Democratic primary for Attorney General as Very Likely Herring.