Mark Herring was sworn in as Virginia’s Attorney General in January 2014. He is the first Democrat elected to serve as the state’s attorney general in almost a quarter century, and he’s bringing a modern approach to the job. His priorities for the people of Virginia include protecting vulnerable populations, supporting immigrant rights, combating drug abuse, helping small businesses, strengthening protections for crime victims, and increasing government accountability and transparency.
Early Life and Education
Herring was born on September 21, 1961, and raised by a single mother whom he credits for teaching him the life-long lesson that “if you see a problem, you have a responsibility to try to fix it.” He received a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs and Economics, and a Master’s in Foreign Affairs, from the University of Virginia. He then graduated with honors from the University of Richmond School of Law in 1990.
Herring worked as a lawyer in private practice at his own firm in Leesburg, VA, for more than twenty years. He also served on Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors, and prevailed in a special election in 2006 to represent Loudoun and Fairfax Counties in the Virginia State Senate. He served as a state senator for eight years, during which time his counties grew quickly in population and fostered many high-tech business offices.
Herring led the effort to crack down on new threats to children’s safety, working closely with law enforcement and prosecutors to keep dangerous new synthetic drugs off the streets. He championed legislation to prevent financial scams against senior citizens, and as a member of former Governor Bob McDonnell’s Domestic Violence and Response Advisory Board, he sponsored and passed laws to toughen penalties for domestic violence.
Immediately after Herring took office in 2014, he gained widespread recognition when he joined a successful legal challenge to his own state’s ban on same-sex marriage. In doing so, he withdrew the state’s previous defense of the ban on the grounds that it was a violation of the US Constitution and attorneys general need not defend every challenge to a state law if the law is unconstitutional.
Herring has also taken action to protect and support the children of undocumented immigrants, declaring them eligible to apply for in-state tuition and financial aid at Virginia colleges and universities, and taken on campus sexual assault by helping to revise college response plans and leading a task force on the issue. In 2015, after all-female Sweet Briar College announced it would have to close due to financial trouble, he organized a mediation resolution with the Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, Sweet Briar College, and an organization called Saving Sweet Briar to create a plan to keep Sweet Briar college open.
Working in a bipartisan fashion with the state legislature, Mark and his team helped get measures passed to better protect victims of stalking and witnesses of violent crimes. They worked together to enact new legislation to fight dangerous synthetic drugs. He has looked into new ways to combat the heroin and drug abuse epidemic with new prosecutors, training, overdose reversal drugs, and Good Samaritan legislation.
Herring defended Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration plan from attack by other states. He stood up for small businesses and Virginia innovation by moving to help enact tough new limits on predatory lawsuits over intellectual property.
He recently received recognition from the Norfolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for the creation of the nation’s first Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit, which has worked on more than 350 matters across the state related to animal cruelty and animal welfare.
Mark Herring has been married to his wife Laura for 25 years. They have a daughter, Peyton, and a son, Tim. They are members of the Leesburg Presbyterian Church.