“A ruling liberal elite has gotten completely out of control,” he says.
Miyares faces competition for the GOP nomination from Chuck Smith, a Virginia Beach lawyer and former Marine. Smith pursued the nomination in 2017 but did not turn in the required signatures to get on the ballot.
Among Democrats, Attorney General Mark Herring, first elected in 2013, is running for a third term. Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones (Norfolk) is challenging Herring for the Democratic nomination.
A delegate since 2016, Miyares, 44, was the first Cuban American to be elected to the state legislature and served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Virginia Beach.
He criticized Democrats for their efforts to overhaul policing in a special legislative session this year. The session was called in response to protests in Virginia and across the country that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.
Miyares accused Democrats of attempting to “defund” police, a characterization House and Senate leaders have strenuously denied. The legislature did not pass any measure that cut funding to police, but adopted a state budget that gives police a bonus. Miyares voted against the budget, which he thought was not fiscally conservative, said Gary Marx, a senior campaign adviser.
In the video, Miyares mentions only one of his rivals, Herring, whose campaign declined to comment, directing a reporter to a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia. The party issued a statement criticizing Miyares for voting against Medicaid expansion and gun-control legislation, and opposing the criminal justice bills in the special session.
During the special session, the General Assembly considered, but ultimately did not pass, a measure to eliminate qualified immunity, a legal doctrine used by law enforcement to shield officers from civil suits. Miyares makes note of that proposal in his video, saying, “They pushed a law to make it possible for criminals to sue police officers into bankruptcy.”
Miyares combines that law-and-order message with outreach to immigrants, a group that could be critical as the GOP seeks to regain its footing in Virginia, where it hasn’t won a statewide race since 2009. Recalling his mother’s flight from Cuba, he taps into the antisocialist messaging Republicans across the country have used against Democrats in recent years.
“I know a majority of Virginians want safe neighborhoods for their kids. They want violent criminals to remain behind bars. And they want to stand with our law enforcement officers working to keep our communities safe,” he says. “I know there’s a majority that will defend the freedom our nation offers — especially our newest Americans. . . . My mother fled Cuba with nothing, and she came to this country seeking a new life. Socialism had taken everything my mother had and America gave her the greatest gift — the gift of freedom of opportunity to follow her dreams.”