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Opinion Mark Herring for attorney general and Hala Ayala for lieutenant governor in Virginia

Endorsements from the Washington Post Editorial Board

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), running for reelection, and Del. Hala S. Ayala (D), a candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor, in McLean, Va., on Sept. 1. (Cliff Owen/AP)

In addition to the ballot-topping race for governor, voting in Virginia begins Friday for two other statewide contests, for attorney general and lieutenant governor. The two Democrats on the ballot — incumbent Attorney General Mark R. Herring, seeking reelection, and Del. Hala S. Ayala, who is running for lieutenant governor — are levelheaded progressives aligned with Virginia. The two Republicans are not, especially Winsome E. Sears, running for lieutenant governor, a Trump-aligned business person who brandished an assault weapon in her campaign posters.

Read the Washington Post Editorial Board's endorsement in the Virginia governor's race: Terry McAuliffe for governor

In both races, there is history at stake. A third-term win by Mr. Herring against the Republican challenger, Del. Jason Miyares, would make him among the state’s longest-serving attorneys general. And whoever wins the lieutenant governorship will become the first woman in the role, and the first woman of color to serve in any statewide office.

The attorney general’s job is critical, as Mr. Herring’s own accomplishments over eight years in office attest. A former lawmaker in Richmond, he made a mark in his first term by refusing to represent Virginia, his client, in a lawsuit challenging its ban on same-sex marriage. He framed that decision, controversial at the time, as akin to declining to defend segregated schools in mid-20th-century Virginia. Today, most Virginians would likely agree.

He has been equally bold in pushing to scrap GOP-devised rules designed to force the closure of abortion clinics, and in backing affordable access to higher education at state-supported colleges for undocumented students who have grown up in the commonwealth. And without gratuitously bashing law enforcement, whose jobs are critical to an orderly society, Mr. Herring also gained legislative authority for his office to investigate local police departments when there is evidence of systematic civil rights abuses.

That’s a meaty track record. By contrast, Mr. Miyares, a three-term lawmaker from Virginia Beach, has run a law-and-order campaign — he’s a former prosecutor — suggesting Democrats would defund police, while also asserting he won’t “allow” illegal immigrants to “take advantage of American laws.” In fact, there is virtually no effort by Virginia Democrats to slash funding for law enforcement, and nearly three-quarters of Virginians support citizenship for unauthorized immigrants.

Lieutenant governors tend to have a lower profile in Virginia, and less to do — the part-time job pays just $36,000. But it matters who wins. Many have used the role as a platform to mount gubernatorial races, and the incumbent, Democrat Justin Fairfax, who is leaving office, has also cast tiebreaking votes in the state Senate, currently almost split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Ms. Ayala, a cybersecurity specialist and a well-liked lawmaker representing Prince William County, was elected to the House of Delegates in 2018 and advanced quickly to become a top Democratic vote wrangler in Richmond. Her compelling personal story — her Salvadoran-born father died from gun violence and she struggled as a young mother without health insurance for her son — resonates with many voters. Meanwhile, the Jamaican-born Ms. Sears, who served a single term as a state legislator 20 years ago and last year was national chair of Black Americans to Re-elect the President, has floundered. She publicly backed Texas’s draconian antiabortion law, then fired most of her campaign staff. Ms. Ayala is the better choice.