Attorney General Candidates John Adams and Chuck Smith Answer Questions

Two candidates are running for the Republican Party’s nomination for the office of Attorney General. Both John Adams and Chuck Smith are seeking their first election to public office. (A third candidate, Delegate Rob Bell of Albemarle County, withdrew from the race in November.) Whoever wins the GOP primary in June will go on to face incumbent Democrat Mark Herring in the November general election.

Adams and Smith participated in the MAC-PAC candidates’ forum at the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville on February 18. I interviewed both gentlemen and asked them the same questions.

When I asked the candidates what motivated them to run, they gave similar answers, which I present here unedited from their transcribed interviews. (You can listen to the full audio of both interviews below.)

John Adams: “Two words: Mark Herring. I mean it when I say it. I’ve never run for office before. But when I saw the Attorney General really usurping the power of the people by ignoring the laws that we the people pass, picking and choosing which laws he agreed with or disagreed with, to me that was an abrogation of his duty as our Attorney General and when he said he was going to run for reelection, I said, not on my watch.”

Chuck Smith: “When I see our laws are not being enforced, our constitution is not being enforced, people seeming to think they can pick and choose from the constitution what clause they’re going to defend. I think that’s ludicrous. I think if we send that message to our children, we have little to wonder why our children are so screwed up. If we don’t protect our people with the very document that was written to protect them, then what do we have?”

I pointed out that Corey Stewart had, during the MAC-PAC forum, come out in favor of marijuana decriminalization (a position held by five of the six current candidates for Governor of Virginia). Do Adams and Smith agree?

Adams: “I do not. I am certainly amenable to looking at and allowing the legislature—of course this is a legislative decision, but your question is fair – looking at medical uses for marijuana. We allow our doctors to prescribe far worse things and I think letting the medical community make some decisions, that might be all right. But I can tell you this: I’ve been a federal prosecutor. I’ve prosecuted drug dealers. I’ve been eminently involved in this opioid health crisis. You just cannot convince me that marijuana is not a gateway drug and the idea that we would decriminalize marijuana strikes me as bad public policy.”

Smith: “I think he also said he did not want to make it legal, but he did not want people to be criminalized for it, to be penalized for it. I agree with that. Yes.”

That question gave me a segue to my next one, which I ask as frequently I can of candidates for public office, regardless of party: In the general election, how will you appeal to libertarian voters, such as those who might have voted for Robert Sarvis in 2013?

Adams: “Oh, yeah, absolutely [I can appeal to libertarian voters]. Look, in fact, I’ve talked to a lot of the folks who not just are libertarian but the legalization of marijuana is their central subject. I think, as a former prosecutor and someone who is a Republican candidate for attorney general, they appreciate that I’m even open to the idea of allowing some medical uses of marijuana. But the simple fact of the matter is, this is just based, Rick, on my experience. I think that decriminalizing marijuana is bad public policy. I’ve got reasons to back it up, and I hope they’ll hear me out on them.”

Smith: “You know, my position in this race is to get us back to the constitution. I entered the race because people were looking at our laws– Look, lawyers, we go to law school to learn the law. People send people to Washington to make the law. And yet we’re not going to abide by the laws that are made or the laws that we learn. I think we appeal to people across the board if we do the right thing and I don’t mean that in an esoteric sense. I mean, if we get back to our laws and enforce the laws that we have and we do the commonsense things, people from all across the political spectrum will come. We need to stop the good old boy system, we need to stop with money raises the boats, we need to stop with scratch my back – you know, we need to have a system where our laws control what we do and our freedoms are guided by those laws. I firmly believe that. If we get back to the constitution, we have no problems.”

Here is the full audio interview with John Adams:

Here is the full audio interview with Chuck Smith (note that I ask him an additional question, which I had also posed to other candidates that day, about the news media):