This weekend, 4 Republicans compete to be Virginia’s next attorney general

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Virginia Republicans this weekend will choose a candidate to represent their party in this year’s race for attorney general, a job held by a Democratic incumbent who is seeking a third term in office.

Among the Republican contenders, Virginia Beach state Del. Jason Miyares leads in fundraising, followed by Virginia Beach attorney Chuck Smith, Northern Virginia lawyer Jack White and Leslie Haley, an elected county supervisor in Chesterfield County, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The candidates have vowed to push back against liberal changes made by a Democrat-led General Assembly and governor’s mansion. In the past two years, Democrats have passed many progressive laws, including some that have reined in police power, abolished the death penalty and legalized marijuana.

“As a former prosecutor in Virginia Beach, I understand the (importance) of returning the position of Attorney General to Virginia’s ‘Top Cop,’” Miyares wrote in an email describing his priorities. “The Attorney General must be that one state leader that ensures our streets are safe and violent criminals are punished.”

Miyares has raised about $480,000, falling third in overall fundraising after Democratic incumbent Mark Herring and Democrat Jay Jones, a 32-year-old lawyer and state delegate representing Norfolk. Herring and Jones have raised about $1.8 million and $1.3 million, respectively, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Miyares won an open seat to the 82nd District for the House of Delegates in November 2015, becoming the first Cuban-American elected to the Virginia General Assembly, according to his biography. He is a vocal opponent of efforts to “defund the police,” which became a rallying cry in other parts of the country following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota. But in interviews with The Virginian-Pilot, local activists have expressed little appetite for the call, which means far different things to different people, from literally abolishing the police to simply cutting funding on traditional public safety and investing instead in community resources.

The attorney general’s main duties include giving legal advice to state agencies, issuing opinions that interpret state law and defending criminal convictions on appeal. The office also prosecutes some crimes itself.

Pandemic restrictions on mass gatherings have prevented the GOP from holding a traditional convention. So the party has instead opted to hold an “unassembled convention” this weekend in which delegates who preregistered to participate will cast ballots at more than 30 locations to choose a nominee.

Smith, who ran for attorney general in 2017, is the former chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia Beach, according to his website’s biography. He has five children and a career with the Navy that spans decades.

If he wins, he said he wants to “stop the derision of the Constitution,” “(enforce) laws against all illegal immigration to protect all Virginians,” and “(protect) life from conception until natural death.”

White describes himself as a conservative outsider and points to his background as an ordained minister and Army Veteran. His website notes his time advocating for “individuals, parishioners, families, and companies both small and large, in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.” White, who entered the race in March, has been critical of Herring and touts his own efforts to reopen schools in Arlington County.

Haley has been similarly critical of Herring, calling him part of Virginia’s “failed liberal leadership” along with Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax. She has also denounced demands to defund the police, and if she wins she said she would “stand with law enforcement, and support economic growth and great jobs for our citizens.”

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Leslie Haley

Age: 66

Occupation: Ethics Attorney, Supervisor on the Chesterfield Board, Chair of the Greater Richmond Partnership

Previous office held, if any: Supervisor on the Chesterfield Board

Education: B.S. in Business Administration from West Virginia; J.D. from West Virginia

Website: haleyforag.com

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Jason Miyares

Age: 45

Occupation: Attorney/House of Delegates Member

Previous office held, if any: 82nd District, Virginia House of Delegates

Education: B.A.: James Madison University (1998)

J.D.: William and Mary School of Law (2005)

Website: https://www.jasonmiyares.com

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Chuck Smith

Age: 68

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous office held, if any: None

Education: NCCU, DURHAM, NC, B.A., J.D.

Website: chucksmith4ag.com

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Jack White

Age: 47

Occupation: Attorney, Jack is Partner at FH+H based in Northern Virginia

Previous office held, if any: Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

Education: West Point, where he was named Cadet of the Year, and Pepperdine Law School, where he was the editor-in-chief of the law review

Website: http://votejackwhite.com

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