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Attorney General Mark Herring is accusing his Republican challenger Jason Miyares of supporting his own self-interests instead of abstaining from votes on legislation that directly impacts his family’s business. Legally, Miyares is in the clear – but Herring is accusing the delegate of using his elected position to benefit himself.
“While raking in over $1 million from his family real estate business, Jason Miyares voted to protect landlords over renters and homeowners,” a new TV ad from Herring says. “It’s sleazy and wrong.”
Miyares is a lawyer and state delegate for his day job. The family business that Herring’s ad refers to is Atkinson Realty, a “premier boutique brokerage for Coastal Virginia communities.” According to their website, Atkinson Realty sells houses and manages vacation and long-term rentals.
Page Atkinson Miyares is listed as a broker at the business. She is also Jason’s wife. His campaign website lists Page as a third-generation owner of Atkinson Realty.
Miyares has reported since 2014 that his immediate family has grossed at least $250,000 annually from Atkinson Realty. He has been serving in the General Assembly since 2016.
Herring is calling attention to the votes that Miyares has taken during his time in the House of Delegates that had direct impacts on the real estate industry in Virginia. Instead of abstaining from the votes, Miyares sided with his Republican colleagues and voted against several bills last year that would have given tenants more power during the pandemic.
In 2020, he voted against a bill that prevented commercial landlords from evicting a tenant until providing the opportunity to pay back rent through a payment plan. He also voted against a bill that protects renters from eviction for 60 days if they have proof they have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Miyares voted against providing additional funds in the budget last year that went towards providing legal support to low-income individuals facing eviction in the commonwealth. He voted against extending all of this legislation as well when the pandemic did not end by the sunset date of July1, 2021, that was added for many of the protections.
Earlier this year, Miyares voted against legislation with his Republican colleagues that prohibited a landlord from requiring a tenant to pay a security deposit, insurance premiums for damage insurance, and insurance premiums for renter’s insurance prior to occupying the residence.
He also voted against the Fair Housing Act, legislation that added discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of funds to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices.
During his first year serving as a delegate in 2016, Miyares was one of only 22 delegates in the House that voted against legislation allowing Virginians to list their house for rent on Airbnb.
“Jason Miyares is showing us exactly why he cannot be trusted to be Attorney General. Voters can see that he is someone who has no problem with using his elected position to benefit himself and his family,” Attorney General Herring said in a statement to Virginia Scope. “I have always said, the Attorney General needs to be the people’s lawyer. That means standing up to fight for everyday Virginians and their interests, not your own financial interests.”
According to a spokesperson for Miyares, he was never advised to abstain from any votes when consulting with the Virginia Ethics Council. “While in the House, Jason regularly consulted with the Virginia Ethics Council on votes and was never advised to abstain,” said Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson for Miyares.
The Virginia Code addresses potential conflicts of interest in the General Assembly, saying “citizens are entitled to be assured that the judgment of the members of the General Assembly will not be compromised or affected by inappropriate conflicts.”
Rule 69, which is when you abstain from a vote because of a conflict of interest. I’m a full-time delegate, so I don’t press that button.— Del. Danica Roem (@pwcdanica) January 24, 2019
The Virginia Code also says that a “‘personal interest in a transaction’ exists only if the legislator or member of his immediate family or an individual or business represented or served by the legislator is affected in a way that is substantially different from the general public.”
The Miyares campaign is accusing Herring of trying to deflect from his own record with this new ad. “It is shameful that Mark Herring has chosen to attack one of the few multigenerational women-owned businesses in Virginia to cover up his horrendous track record of not protecting women and victims from violent crime,” LaCivita said in a statement. “To use a woman-owned business passed down from mother to daughter, that has been recognized for excellence, in order to score cheap political points in laughably false ads shows that Herring knows he is losing.”
The campaign also cited an email from the Executive Director of the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council dated Sept 30, 2021, saying that there is insufficient evidence to prove a personal interest for Miyares with these votes, stating the votes impacted all landlords, not just his family’s business.
“The vast majority of Jason’s wife’s small business comes from home sales and beach vacation rentals,” LaCivita continued. The fact that Mark Herring is attacking a working woman for being successful is completely inappropriate and shameful.”
Polling has shown a tight race up and down the ballot with less than five weeks until election day. Herring enjoys the benefit of winning statewide twice already in 2013 and 2017. Miyares has been in the General Assembly since 2016, but he only represents one percent of Virginians as a delegate.
“The big challenge for any candidate in their first statewide race is becoming well-known,” says Dr. Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. “When your previous electorate was 1/100th of the population of Virginia, you have a lot of introducing of yourself to do.”
The two candidates will meet for a debate on Oct. 13 hosted by the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.
Election day is Nov 2.
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