Attorney general candidate Herring

Posted: November 2, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — If elected Virginia’s new attorney general on Tuesday, Sen. Mark Herring, D-Leesburg, says he will chart a much different course from the current one.

He said Ken Cuccinelli, who is running as the Republican candidate for governor, has overstepped the bounds of his office.

“He’s abused the powers of the office, and time and again he has twisted and bent the law in order to impose policies on Virginians that are way outside the mainstream,” said Herring, 52.

As attorney general, Cuccinelli sued the University of Virginia for a professor’s climate change research and filed litigation against the controversial Affordable Care Act.

He said his opponent, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, would bring a continuation of Cuccinelli’s style.

“Virginians can do a lot better than that,” he said. “I would focus on things like protecting Virginians, keeping our families safe, our communities safe, whether it’s reducing sexual and domestic violence, cracking down on child sexual predators, protecting seniors from financial fraud and other types of scams.”

Herring described his approach as very simple: “We need to keep our laws updated.”

According to his website herringforag.com, he would try to repeal “extreme policies” surrounding abortion access by providing an opinion that the state’s health board can “grandfather” existing women’s health clinics so they are not required to meet more stringent licensing standards, and support efforts to repeal the law that says women must obtain an ultrasound prior to having an abortion.

“That points to a major difference and something that I hear a lot about when I’m on the campaign trail,” Herring said. “A lot of women are concerned about how Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Obenshain have both led an assault on women’s rights.

Cuccinelli and Obenshain, he said, sponsored “personhood” legislation that would take away a women’s right to choose and common forms of contraception.

“I completely disagree with that extreme social agenda. I would work to keep the women’s health centers open. These health centers provide a broad array of services, including cancer screenings, prenatal care, low-cost birth control.”

Women should have more access to health care — not less — Herring said.

He said he also supports gay marriage — the state’s ban on it is being challenged in federal court by four women, including a Winchester couple.

“I support marriage equality,” Herring said. “And, I believe as a matter of policy, Virginia should not discriminate against any of our citizens. And recent Supreme Court decisions have struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as well, and effectively nullify California’s gay marriage ban.

“And those decisions have called into question the gay marriage bans in other states, including Virginia. And I have growing skepticism that the law can withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Regarding gun violence, Herring said he supports “commonsense measures” to combat it, including comprehensive background checks for potential firearm buyers.

According to his website, Herring also supports a ban on assault-style weapons.

“We also need to do more on mental health and making sure that community services are available to those who need help,” he said.

The need for ethics reform, he said, has been underscored by the gifts scandal which has entangled Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“The federal investigation needs to continue so that we can get all of the facts and learn whether any laws were broken ...,” Herring said.

He said he has a five-point ethics plan to restore integrity to elected state offices, including setting up an ethics commission, adopting a gift ban that applies to elected officials and their families, setting up stronger penalties for ethics violations, ensuring that campaign funds cannot be used for personal expenses and having greater transparency in the attorney general’s office.

Herring has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, Northern Virginia Technology Council, Republicans for Herring, Virginia Association of Realtors, Virginia Education Association, NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, the Virginia Police Benevolent Association, Virginia AFL-CIO, Virginia NOW and the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters Association.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com