By Erich Wagner (File photo)
As Mark Herring (D) finally celebrates his victory in the Virginia attorney general race, city leaders hope he will keep Alexandrians in mind as he pushes for change in Richmond.
Herring was announced as the winner over state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) on Wednesday after a formal recount, and his victory marks the first statewide Democratic sweep in decades. The election results seesawed back and forth for weeks, until an official count and subsequent recount confirmed that Herring won the job as the commonwealth’s top lawyer.
City Councilor Justin Wilson said having a Loudoun County resident in one of the state’s top elective offices could be a huge asset for Northern Virginia — not only sharing the ideals of a region dominated by Democrats but also simply understanding local priorities.
“I think all three elected statewide officials understand what makes Northern Virginia tick,” he said. “It’s always good to have a governor, a lieutenant governor and certainly an attorney general that are going to be favorable to the type of policies that the city relies upon and the city needs to be successful.”
Wilson said that having a Democrat as the attorney general is vitally important, given that the House of Delegates remains dominated by Republicans and the party’s best-case scenario in the state Senate is a split body, 20-20. Herring and Lieutenant Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s state Senate seats are up for grabs in special elections next month — Jan. 7 for Northam’s spot and Jan. 21 for Herring.
“I think you’ll find a lot of stalemate likely between the governor and the General Assembly on a lot of issues,” Wilson said. “I think it will be incumbent on the governor to rely on executive action, much of which will have to be green-lit by the attorney general. So he will be integral in helping craft executive actions that both guide our state forward and that are legal.” And Mayor Bill Euille said Herring will have an opportunity to reverse the course set by outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on a lot of social issues that are important to Alexandrians.
“Knowing Mark, he’ll bring fairness and equitableness to the process,” Euille said. “Issues his predecessor avoided or clamped down on in terms of immigration, gay rights and abortion, [Herring] will be a breath of fresh air because he will want to weigh in on those issues at the appropriate time.”
On the other side of the aisle, Tom Fulton, chairman of the Alexandria Republican City Committee, said the Democratic sweep should be a wakeup call to his party across the state that officials need to “represent every citizen, not just a select few.” He said the local party voted last month, following the election, to support a return to primary elections to determine Republican statewide candidates.
“These processes by convention, I’m not sure it’s serving the Republican Party of Virginia the best,” he said.
Fulton said he doesn’t know how Herring’s ties to Northern Virginia will shape his agenda. But given the growth of population and economic activity in the region, he believes state officials should be attuned to the needs of Alexandrians.
“The state really does need to pay attention to the issues important to Northern Virginia, particularly congestion and transportation difficulty,” Fulton said. “I’m very glad to see soon-to-be former Gov. Bob McDonnell push through the transportation plan, but it’s up to the new administration to make sure the problems of congestion are adequately addressed.”