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Northam backs primary challenger in Virginia attorney general's race

The Hill logo The Hill 3/4/2021 Max Greenwood
Ralph Northam wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Northam backs primary challenger in Virginia attorney general's race © Getty Images Northam backs primary challenger in Virginia attorney general's race

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Thursday endorsed Jay Jones in the state's attorney general race, snubbing Democratic incumbent Mark Herring, who is seeking a third term.

In backing Jones, a state delegate from Norfolk who's serving out his second term, Northam said he is hoping to elevate a "new generation of leaders" that represent "the diversity" of Virginia.

"Jay Jones has stood with me every step of the way in our journey to make Virginia a more just and equitable place to live," Northam said. "He has been my partner as we have worked to change our Commonwealth. He also understands the deep scars of racism and will represent the diversity of our Commonwealth. That is why I'm honored to endorse him in his race for Attorney General."

The endorsement is Northam's first in this year's statewide races that include contests for attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor. Northam, who was elected to the governor's mansion in 2017, is barred from running again due to term limits.

In a statement, Jones said that he was "humbled" to receive Northam's backing, calling him "the most consequential governor in the history of this Commonwealth."

"I've been enormously proud to stand with him every step of the way over the years, and I am excited to carry on the legacy that he and the First Lady are building," Jones said. "I am grateful for his support as we enter this new decade standing shoulder to shoulder to create the Virginia that we can all be proud of."

Herring had once floated a 2021 bid for governor before ultimately deciding to seek a third term as attorney general.

Despite working together for years, Northam and Herring have never appeared to be particularly close. Herring was one of the first state officials to call for Northam's resignation in 2019 after a photo from the governor's 1984 medical school yearbook page surfaced showing a person in blackface.

Herring later admitted to wearing blackface himself while he was a student at the University of Virginia in the 1980s.

Virginia Democrats will hold their primary on June 8. If Jones were to win the general election in November, he would become the commonwealth's first Black attorney general.

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