Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring met with his challenger Jay Jones on Wednesday for their first debate ahead of the state Democratic Party’s primary in June.
And at times, it turned personal. Jones went on the attack, bringing up the scandal from 2019 when Herring acknowledged he wore blackface once as a college student.
“I was there when you took that paper out of your jacket, smoothed it out on the table and read us a statement with no empathy, no compassion, no feeling for how we felt,” Jones told Herring. “Frankly, that still pains me to this day.”
Herring responded with an apology.
“I am very sorry for what I did one time at age 19,” said Herring. “It does not at all reflect the person I’ve matured into, let alone the public servant I became.”
In the debate, which was hosted by ABC7, Jones framed himself as a more progressive candidate who would take a more proactive role in addressing unnecessary police use of force.
“Imagine if we look at this old office in a new way,” Jones said.
Jones is 32 and Herring is 59.
Herring pointed to his experience, noting that he has been in that office for nearly eight years.
“I can continue to lead, as I have, in an aggressive and progressive way,” Herring said.
Herring is seeking a third term in office, and recent polling shows him with a strong lead over Jones.
One poll from Christopher Newport University put Herring at 42% and Jones at 18%. However, 34% of Democratic voters said they were still undecided, the poll showed.
The two candidates face off in a Democratic primary June 8.
On the Republican side, there are four candidates running for attorney general. Republicans will whittle that down to just one candidate during a statewide convention on Saturday.