Nonpartisan Candidate Guide: 2017 Virginia Attorney General’s Race

John Adams (R)

Mark Herring (D)

Virginia’s Attorney General provides legal advice and representation to the Governor and state agencies, enforces the state’s laws, and argues the state’s cases in court. Attorney Generals have filed briefs on issues from Obamacare to climate change and immigration policy.

This guide outlines the positions of Virginia’s 2017 Republican and Democratic Governor candidates.  For printable PDF and mobile versions, see candidate guides.

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Abortion: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Adams: Yes. “I am unequivocally pro-life [and will] fight to uphold strict standards.”
Herring: No. Has fought to defend women’s access to abortion.

Climate Change: Support Virginia Clean Power Plan and participation in U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of states committed to climate change action? Support participation in regional interstate initiative to limit levels of greenhouse gases by putting a price on carbon?
Adams: Opposes regulatory efforts that he believes will harm coal industry, kill jobs, and drive up electricity cost. Opposes participation in regional initiative.
Herring: Yes. Joined with other AGs in coalition to address “the pressing threat of man-made climate change & sea-level rise.”  Supports participation in regional initiative

Confederate Statues: Remove from public spaces?
Adams: No. “Terrible idea [and] all should be concerned about a government that attempts to erase history.”
Herring: Yes. Issued advisory that localities can remove statues.

Contraception: Employers can withhold employee contraceptive coverage if they disagree with it morally. The Supreme Court permitted this in their Hobby Lobby ruling. 
Adams: Yes. Filed brief in support of Hobby Lobby, stating “I will stand up for the liberty of our fellow citizens to exercise their religious faith.”
Herring: No. Criticized Adam’s stand, supported Obamacare’s rules to require contraceptive coverage be included.

Elections: Support nonpartisan redistricting to counter charges of partisan gerrymandering?  
Adams: Unknown
Herring: Yes, supports nonpartisan redistricting.

Gay Rights: Support gay marriage?
Adams: Personal belief that marriage is “between one man & one woman.” Would respect VA Constitutional amendment to allow, but sees Supreme Court decision as “totally made up”.
Herring: Yes

Gay Rights: Should transgender individuals be banned from the military?
Adams: Unclear, but views Herring’s action to block ban as overreach.
Herring: No. Joined other AGs to ask Congress to block military ban.

Gun Control: Enact more restrictive gun control legislation?
Adams: No
Herring: Supports universal background checks, reinstating “one handgun per month” law, and better gun safety technology.

Healthcare: Support or Repeal ACA, aka Obamacare? Accept ACA’s Medicaid expansion leading to 400,000 more low-income people being eligible?
Adams: Unknown
Herring: Supports both ACA & Medicaid expansion.

Healthcare: Fund or defund Planned Parenthood?
Adams: Defund
Herring: Fund. Joined other AGs in legal challenge to attempts to defund.

Immigration: How to respond to America’s 11 million undocumented residents, including “DACA” recipients or “Dreamers,” who grew up in the US after being brought here as children?
AdamsDACA program was executive overreach by Obama. Said Herring was improperly trying to protect in-state university slots & tuition for “illegal aliens.”
HerringJoined other AGs to defend DACA program. Supported in-state tuition for Dreamers.

Marijuana: Decriminalize marijuana?  
Adams: No. Marijuana is a gateway drug and decriminalization is “bad public policy.”
Herring: Wants to evaluate experience of other states before changing VA laws.

President Trump: Response to President Trump’s actions and policies? 
Adams: “Happy to have a Republican in the White House” but concerned that “Tweeting will kill Trump…some positions should not allow unregulated emotions to spew out.”
HerringAmong first to challenge Trump in court on “Muslim ban.”

Renewable Energy: Support government subsidies for renewable energy?
Adams: Unknown
Herring: Yes

Voting Rights: Support Gov. McAuliffe’s restoration of voting rights to 156,000 ex-felons who’ve completed parole and probation?

Voting Rights: Support stricter voting rules such as voter ID requirements or reduced registration times, even if they prevent some people from voting?
Adams: Unknown, but criticized Herring for refusing to personally defend Virginia’s law.
Herring: Opposes them, voted against Virginia’s strict ID law when in the legislature.


Created by the Campus Election Engagement Project, a non-partisan effort to help college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders engage their schools in the election. Key sites consulted included ,, and public candidate statements. For guides to local races, including legislative races, see, from the League of Women Voters, and