In what may become a heated Democratic primary contest for Virginia attorney general, state Del. Jerrauld C. “Jay” Jones Friday attacked Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) Friday for authorizing an investigation into allegations of impropriety surrounding Richmond’s mayor — a standard move in an ongoing court case that Jones called a Trump-like abuse of power.

“Using the office of the Attorney General to investigate your political opponents is the same tactic employed by Donald Trump,” Jones (D-Norfolk) said in a statement, referring to the fact that Richmond Mayor Levar A. Stoney has endorsed him, and not Herring, for the Democratic nomination for attorney general this year.

Herring’s office said that claim has no merit.

“The Office of Attorney General did not initiate these investigations, is not conducting them, has no oversight over them, and has no say in the outcome,” a Herring spokeswoman said in a statement.

Timothy Martin — who was appointed as special prosecutor in a court case brought by Stoney’s onetime mayoral opponent Kim Gray — said he asked Herring’s office to authorize the Virginia State Police to begin investigating questions over a no-bid contract to remove Confederate monuments in the city that was granted to a political donor of the mayor’s.

Stoney has said he wasn’t aware who was awarded the contract after he used his emergency powers to have the monuments taken down as a safety measure during the racial justice protests that consumed the city last summer. The head of the company that was awarded the contract, Devon Henry, contributed $4,000 to Stoney’s campaign operations between 2016 and 2019.

The request to Herring’s office was a preliminary step, made in accordance with a Virginia code that requires the governor, attorney general or a grand jury to formally sign off on any inquiry into whether another elected official committed a criminal violation, said Martin, who is the Augusta County commonwealth’s attorney.

“I made that request because without the extensive resources of Virginia State Police or another agency with boots on the ground, my ability to investigate would be quite limited,” Martin said.

Jeffrey Breit, Stoney’s attorney, said he didn’t see a political motive behind Herring's authorization. Breit said he also doesn’t consider it a sign that Martin or Herring believe Stoney committed a crime.

“What you all are seeing is the AG’s office simply allowing the state police to help him do the interviews,” Breit said. “The mayor and I, as his attorney, are not worried about it at all.”