Mark Herring

Mark Rankin Herring (born September 25, 1961)[1] is an American lawyer who is the 47th Attorney General of Virginia. A Democrat, he previously served in the Senate of Virginia since a 2006 special election, representing the 33rd district, made up of parts of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.[1][2]

Mark Herring
Mark Herring at McAuliffe rally.jpg
47th Attorney General of Virginia
Assumed office
January 11, 2014
GovernorTerry McAuliffe
Ralph Northam
Preceded byKen Cuccinelli
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 33rd district
In office
February 1, 2006 – January 11, 2014
Preceded byBill Mims
Succeeded byJennifer Wexton
Personal details
Mark Rankin Herring

(1961-09-25) September 25, 1961 (age 58)
Johnson City, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Laura Herring
m. 1990)
EducationUniversity of Virginia (BA, MA)
University of Richmond (JD)
WebsiteGovernment website

Early life and educationEdit

Herring was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, and moved to Leesburg, Virginia at the age of 12.[3] Raised by a single mother, he graduated from Loudoun Valley High School in 1979 and worked in construction and many other jobs in order to pay for college.[4][5] He eventually obtained a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in foreign affairs and economics at the University of Virginia. He also obtained a Master of Arts in foreign affairs from UVA. He subsequently obtained a J.D. from the University of Richmond School of Law.[1]


He served in elected office on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors from 2000 to 2003,[6] and was the Town Attorney for Lovettsville, Virginia, from 1992 to 1999. He is the principal with The Herring Law Firm, P.C., in Leesburg, Virginia.

Herring was elected to the Senate of Virginia in a special election triggered by two-term incumbent Republican Bill Mims' appointment as chief deputy attorney general of Virginia. He was re-elected to a full term in the 2007 election, and re-elected again in 2011.

On July 24, 2012, he announced that he would run for the office of Attorney General of Virginia, in the 2013 elections.[7][8] On April 2, 2013, The Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA) certified that Herring's name would appear on the June primary ballot.[9] On June 11, 2013, Herring won the primary.[10]

Attorney General of VirginiaEdit

2013 electionEdit

Herring faced Justin Fairfax in the Democratic primary in June 2013, winning narrowly by a margin of 52%-48%. He faced Republican Mark Obenshain in the general election.

On the night of the election, Obenshain held a 1,200 vote lead over Herring. Vote totals fluctuated as ballots were canvassed in the following days, and the race remained too close to call. On November 12, 2013, with all ballots counted, Herring held a 165-vote lead, or less than 0.01%, and Obenshain requested a recount.[11] Herring's total increased during the recount, so Obenshain conceded the election on December 18, 2013, and later that day, the recount ended with Herring winning by 907 votes, or 0.04%.[12][13][14] Herring was sworn into office on January 11, 2014.[citation needed]


Virginia Marriage AmendmentEdit

On January 23, 2014, Herring announced that he would not defend the Virginia Marriage Amendment in federal court, and filed a brief in a federal lawsuit being brought against the law asking for it to be struck down. Herring said in a press conference announcing the move, "I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law."[15]

Reaction to the announcement was mainly along party lines, with Democrats mostly praising the move and Republicans mostly criticizing it as a violation of his oath of office.[16] The National Organization for Marriage has called for Herring's impeachment, claiming that the Virginia attorney general is obligated to defend all state laws against challenges.[17] In the press conference, Herring said, "There are those who will say that the attorney general is required to defend every challenge to a state law, even a law that is unconstitutional. They could not be more wrong."[18]

The amendment was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court in Norfolk in the case Bostic v. Schaefer on February 13, 2014. On July 28, 2014, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 2–1 opinion upholding the lower court's decision. This was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which denied a writ of certiorari, letting the Fourth Circuit Court's decision stand and legalizing same-sex marriage in Virginia.

Gerrymandering caseEdit

In 2019, Mark Herring and the Democratic Party won their case against gerrymandering in Virginia elections when the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the Virginia House GOP's appeal.[19]

2017 electionEdit

Herring faced no opposition in the Democratic primary and won his party's endorsement for re-election. He is the first Virginia Attorney General to run for reelection since Mary Sue Terry in 1989. He defeated Republican opponent John Donley Adams and won re-election. His former opponent and fellow lawyer Justin Fairfax won the race for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in the same year.

Blackface controversyEdit

A few days after the controversy began over a blackface picture appearing on Ralph Northam's page in a 1984 medical school yearbook in the context of the 2019 Virginia political crisis, Herring admitted to an incident in which he also wore blackface:

In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college (at the University of Virginia), some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song.[20]

Herring had previously called on Northam to resign after the discovery of Northam's yearbook page, saying, "It is no longer possible for Governor Northam to lead our Commonwealth, and it is time for him to step down."[20] He later clarified that the discovery of the yearbook page was not the reason he called for Northam's resignation; he did so because Northam had initially admitted to appearing in the photo, but the following day, "came out with a different and contradictory account, and that was when there was an erosion of trust."[21]


As Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Mark Herring took the case for Obamacare to the United States Supreme Court.[22]

Electoral historyEdit

Virginia State Senate 33rd District Special Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring 12,381 61.63
Republican D.M. Staton, Jr. 7,689 38.27
Write-ins Write-ins 20 0.10
Virginia State Senate 33rd District Election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring (inc.) 27,784 56.89
Republican Patricia Phillips 20,994 42.99
Write-ins Write-ins 55 0.11
Virginia State Senate 33rd District Election, 2011
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring (inc.) 14,061 54.06
Republican Patricia Phillips 11,915 45.81
Write-ins Write-ins 30 0.11
Virginia Attorney General Democratic Primary Election, 2013
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring 72,861 51.66
Democratic Justin Fairfax 68,177 48.34
Virginia Attorney General Election, 2013
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring 1,103,777 49.89
Republican Mark Obenshain 1,103,612 49.89
Write-ins Write-ins 4,892 0.22
Virginia Attorney General Election, 2017
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mark Herring 1,379,162 53.21
Republican John Adams 1,210,398 46.70
Write-ins Write-ins 2,352 0.09


  1. ^ a b c "Senator Mark R. Herring; Democrat - District 33". Senate of Virginia. Archived from the original on May 29, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "Meet Mark Herring". Archived from the original on November 19, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2009.
  3. ^ Mercker, Jan (February 1, 2018). "As Herring's Profile Rises, Loudoun's Homegrown AG Stays in Touch with His Roots". Loudoun Now. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  4. ^ "Herring Will Seek Second Term As AG". INSIDENOVA.COM. Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  5. ^ Prengel, Kate (February 4, 2019). "Mark Herring: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved February 5, 2019.
  6. ^ "Senator Mark R. Herring (VA)". Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "Herring To Run For Attorney General Seat". Archived from the original on August 30, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  8. ^ "Herring to seek attorney general post, restore 'credibility' to the office". Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Walker, Julian (April 2, 2013). "McAuliffe named Dem governor nominee, 4 others make ballot". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  10. ^ Pershing, Ben and Errin Whack (June 11, 2013). "Democrats give nod to Northam, Herring in statewide races". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  11. ^ Korff, Jay. "Virginia election 2013: Mark Herring claims Attorney General victory". WJLA. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  12. ^ Emily Schultheis. "GOP Sen. Mark Obenshain concedes in Virginia attorney general race". POLITICO. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  13. ^ Ress, Dave (December 19, 2013). "It's official: Recount results show 907 vote margin for Herring". Daily Press. Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Rogers, Alex. "With 164 Vote Attorney General Victory, Virginia Democrats Sweep State". Time. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  15. ^ Va. Attorney General Mark Herring files brief opposing same-sex marriage ban The Washington Post
  16. ^ Va. lawmakers split along party lines on AG’s move The Washington Post
  17. ^ AG wants Virginia on ;'right side of history' POLITICO
  18. ^ "Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says gay marriage ban unconstitutional". The Washington Times. Retrieved August 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Times-Dispatch, GRAHAM MOOMAW Richmond. "U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Va. House GOP's appeal in racial gerrymandering case". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  20. ^ a b Schneider, Gregory S.; Vozzella, Laura (February 6, 2019). "Virginia Attorney General Herring says he wore blackface in college". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  21. ^ Vozzella, Laura (March 5, 2019). "It wasn't the blackface: Virginia AG Mark Herring explains why he called for Northam's resignation". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  22. ^ Liptak, Adam; Goodnough, Abby (March 2, 2020). "Supreme Court to Hear Obamacare Appeal". The New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2020.

External linksEdit

Senate of Virginia
Preceded by
Bill Mims
Member of the Virginia Senate
from the 33rd district

Succeeded by
Jennifer Wexton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Ken Cuccinelli
Attorney General of Virginia