The Importance of Reelecting AG Mark Herring in 2017

"He joined the fight for marriage equality, guaranteeing that Virginia would fight all the way to the Supreme Court for the fundamental rights of its people, when many times before, Virginia politicians had stood in the way."

AG Mark Herring with Michael (left) and his partner, Barry (right).

By Michael Hamar

Last evening, we attended a fundraiser for Attorney General Mark Herring at the home of our friends Tim Bostic and Tony London, the lead plaintiff’s in Virginia’s federal court marriage equality case that brought equal marriage rights to Virginia and state’s within the 4th Circuit.

I was in a bit of a fog given my hand surgery yesterday morning and the prescription pain pills I was on (Rush Limbaugh’s favorite!), but attended since we were on the host committee. It was a very nice evening and underscored why it is critical that Mark Herring be re-elected next year, especially since his likely opponent is right wing Republican Bob Bell whose positions are akin to those of Ken Cuccinelli, including his off the charts homophobia and disingenuous “family values” positions.

Before Mark Herring made his remarks to those attending, Tim Bostic made an introduction which outlined the difference that Herring has brought to the office of the Attorney General. Here are a few highlights from Tim’s notes and statements which he was kind enough to share with me:

For 20 years the Republican Party had controlled the office of the Attorney General, using the job to increasingly pursue ideological agendas that ignored the needs and rights of their constituents. The logical extreme was found in in Ken Cuccinelli, who went to court to fight against access to affordable access to health care insurance, to deny LGBT Virginians the equal treatment they deserve, to silence a UVA scientist . . . and to shut down health clinics for women. In 2013, Virginians had had enough. They swept in a new team and they went to work.

Just 10 days after being sworn in, Mark Herring had a chance to show Virginians a different approach to the job, and to remind anyone who had forgotten after two decades of one-party control, that the Attorney General can stand up and fight for the people he represents. He joined the fight for marriage equality, guaranteeing that Virginia would fight all the way to the Supreme Court for the fundamental rights of its people, when many times before, Virginia politicians had stood in the way. He has fought on the side of the people of Virginia every day since. In case after case, his actions have been upheld, and they have made a real difference in the lives of Virginians.

Tim went on to list 15 different areas in which Mark Herring has brought positive change, ranging from making college more affordable, protecting women’s clinic’s from closure, addressing campus sexual violence, filing a brief with 22 other attorneys general to defend the Affordable Health Care Act, addressing heroin and prescription drug abuse, defending Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay clean up plan, aiding Southwest Virginia landowners in receiving millions of dollars in natural gas royalties, seeking to hold big banks accountable for gambling with state retirement funds, brokering a deal to keep Sweet Briar College open, and establishing the first ethics and gift policy for his office.

All these positives could be undone if Mark’s likely Republican opponent, Del. Bob Bell, a would be Ken Cuccinelli clone, were to be elected in 2017. On his own website, Bell makes it clear that, like Cuccinelli, his prime concern is pushing through special rights for far right Christians, including license to discriminate laws, diverting public education fund to private interests, unrestricted gun rights, and “states rights” under the 10th Amendment – an argument used throughout Virginia’s history to support slavery, the Jim Crow laws, force prayer in schools, and, of course, open discrimination against LGBT Virginians.

Here’s a sampling of what Bell’s agenda would likely be via his website:

  • Rob Bell is pro-life. In their most recent scorecard, he received a 100% rating from the Family Foundation.
  • Rob also supports the traditional definition of marriage, and voted for Virginia’s Constitutional marriage amendment. He supports . . . religious liberty.
    Rob supports the ability of parents to make educational choices for their children. In addition to supporting tax credits for school tuitions, he strongly supports home schooling. . . . Rob has repeatedly patroned the “Tebow Bill” to give home schoolers better access to extracurriculars at their local public high school.
  • Rob also supports school choice for public school students. In 2012, he co-patroned House Bill 1626 to create tax credits for scholarships for students to attend private schools.
    Moreover, the 10th Amendment specifically states that all powers not delegated to the federal government “are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
  • In 2010, Rob co-patroned House Bill 10, which opposed the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s health care law and helped form Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s legal challenge against it.
  • Rob is also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment which he believes protects right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms for hunting, target shooting, self-defense, and other reasons. Rob is a gun owner, a concealed carry permit holder, an NRA member and a longtime member of the Rivanna Rifle & Pistol Club. He is rated ‘A’ by the NRA.
  • Rob also supports screening for illegal drugs to receive cash welfare benefits. He thinks it is a terrible idea to give someone cash if they are addicted to methamphetamine or crack cocaine.

To garner a 100% score with The Family Foundation – a hate group in all but formal designation – Bell voted for a “personhood” bill that, if enacted, would have banned most forms of contraception in Virginia, and supports the closure of women’s clinics that are often the sole source of health care for poor women. He is obliviously an opponent of LGBT rights of any kind and uses the euphemism of religious liberty” to support special rights that place conservative Christians above the law.

Similarly, Bell wants to shift public education funds to home schoolers and allow home schoolers on public school sports teams even as they reject the very same school educationally. Common sense gun laws are anathema to Bell, and he would emulate costly drug testing laws of other states for welfare recipients where such tests have failed to turn up any drug abuse problems on the part of recipients. Likewise, he opposes expanding health care for working class Virginians without health insurance.

What is remarkable – actually it’s not with Christofascists – is that while Bell wears his supposed religiosity on his sleeve, most of his agenda is diametrically the opposite of what the Gospel message would call one to do.

In short, having Bell in the office of the Attorney General would be a disaster. Between now and the 2017 elections, be assured I will address this topic more and we have already offered to host one or more fundraisers for Mark Herring at our home.