VA Sheriffs Pull Endorsement of Democratic AG Over 'Defund' Movement

'As the extreme wings of the party degraded us … Mark Herring did nothing'

Smyth County, Va., sheriff Chip Shuler and Dickenson County, Va., sheriff Jeremy Fleming / Facebook and Virginia Sheriffs' Association
August 3, 2021

Virginia attorney general Mark Herring (D.) wrongly touted the endorsement of two local sheriffs who instead backed Herring's GOP opponent, citing the Democratic Party's push to defund police.

Herring released an endorsement list Monday that included Smyth County sheriff Chip Shuler and Dickenson County sheriff Jeremy Fleming. In a Monday afternoon statement, Shuler said Herring's endorsement list "erroneously listed my name," adding that Herring "should know because I left the Democrat Party in the same way they left law enforcement."

"I am now a proud member of the Republican Party because I see that they are the party that stands with and supports law enforcement," Shuler said. "Let me be clear—in the race for Attorney General, not only will I be endorsing Republican Challenger Jason Miyares, but I will be casting my ballot for him in November."

Herring deleted the initial endorsement announcement, releasing an updated list Monday night that removed Shuler but included Fleming. The Dickenson County sheriff responded by issuing a Tuesday statement endorsing Miyares and accusing Herring of abandoning law enforcement "over the past eight years."

"As the extreme wings of the party degraded us and called for us to be disbanded and defunded, Mark Herring did nothing—he left us defenseless and unsupported," Fleming said. "This is why despite my political affiliation with the Democrat Party, I am publicly endorsing Jason Miyares for Attorney General—NOT Mark Herring."

While Shuler won reelection in 2019 as a Democrat, he left the party in May over "the relentless attack on law enforcement by Democrats in Richmond and Washington." He is one of three Southwest Virginia sheriffs to ditch the Democratic Party for the GOP in the last year. Fleming, meanwhile, took over as sheriff just one year ago after running as a Democrat in 2019.

Miyares, who represents Virginia Beach in the state legislature, also has the backing of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association. Association president Joseph Woloszyn said the Republican "will put forward policies to stop the rise in crime."

A former state senator, Herring assumed the attorney general's office in 2014. When a blackface photo from governor Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook surfaced in 2019, Herring also admitted to wearing blackface as an undergraduate student 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," Herring said of the incident. He called on Northam to resign in the wake of the scandal but has since returned to the governor's good graces.

Herring and Miyares will square off in November. Miyares outraised the Democrat in June, taking in $486,000 to Herring's $462,000. Miyares entered July with a roughly $300,000 cash-on-hand advantage.