Adams and Herring Debate in Virginia Beach – Video
Republican John Adams and Democrat Mark Herring engaged in a spirited debate at the oceanfront Sheraton in Virginia Beach at the first 2017 general election debate for the Office of Attorney General in Virginia today. The event was hosted by the Young Lawyer’s Committee of the Virginia State Bar Association and moderated by Barbara Hamm Lee of WHRO’s “Another View.”
The just over one hour exchange included a range of questions that centered on the role of the state’s attorney general. As they responded to questions, it didn’t really matter whether they were discussing the environment, health care, federal mandates, opioid-heroin addiction, abortion, energy, or voter ID, a clear line of distinction was drawn between the two candidates: one is an activist and the other will defend Virginia law.
Attorney General Mark Herring characterizes himself as a crusader for “all Virginians.”
“When I see a problem, I want to fix it,” said Herring. He made very clear that when he sees something that he considers wrong, he will take action that he thinks is in the best interests of the people of Virginia, regardless of Virginia statute.
John Adams has a very different approach. He is an advocate for the rule of law.
Adams said that he was running his campaign as a lawyer. And that it was the role of the attorney general to provide the governor and legislature “timely, accurate, and objective legal advice.”
Herring took to the offense early in the debate.
In his opening statement, and repeatedly throughout the Q&A, Herring was critical of Adams for defending those accused of a crime. The incumbent would reference Adams’ role providing counsel to the accused (Herring’s comments implied that a defendant’s right to counsel was a terrible thing if they were accused of terrible things). Ultimately, Adams had enough and in his closing statement, reminded the audience of his namesake’s role in defending the accused British following the Boston Massacre.
In addition to Herring’s critique above, a couple of “points of differentiation” were made clear: Herring is going to be critical of Adams for defending the Little Sisters of the Poor in the US Supreme Court. He will attempt to portray a legitimate concern about religious liberty as Adams being against “women’s reproductive rights.” Herring will also attempt to portray Adams’ belief in a limited scope for the attorney general based on the state constitution as not defending Virginia law but the “Republican Caucus.”
Adams, in return, will show Herring as a politically-minded attorney general. Adams vowed never to be referenced by a governor as “my attorney,” as Governor Terry McAuliffe has to Herring. He also reminded the audience that Herring spent nearly a million dollars of taxpayer money because the OAG refused to defend Virginia statute, which required the state to seek outside counsel.
After the debate, I was able to catch up with Adams: