Look out, Mark Herring … there’s a new guy in town, and he has a name every American should recognize.
Republican John Adams is coming on strong in his campaign for Virginia Attorney General, and he has the “it” factor that political types are always looking for in a candidate: Qualified, good looks, beautiful all-American family that includes a supportive wife and four sons, VMI grad, UVa Law School, and military veteran, clerked in D.C., and hometown boy who never forgot his roots and eventually moved back home ready to serve Virginia. Indeed, on his website he says, “I am a Virginian, not a politician.”
And, yes, he is related to that John Adams.
For Richmonders who remember Dr. Theodore F. Adams, the longtime, very well-known pastor at Richmond’s First Baptist Church … well, he was John’s grandfather. John Adams’ roots go deep in the Richmond community. He practices at McGuireWoods where he leads the firm’s Government Investigations department, managing more than fifty lawyers worldwide. He and his wife Lisa met in high school, and their four sons attend the same Chesterfield County public schools their parents did.
The race tightened after Rob Bell withdrew late last year leaving only Adams and Virginia Beach attorney Chuck Smith. After Smith failed to make the primary ballot by the deadline, Adams, 43, became the Republican attorney general candidate who will face off against Democratic incumbent Mark Herring, 55, in November.
Running against an incumbent is difficult, and if we still had the John Adams from a year ago, my money would go with Herring. But Adams, after fifteen months on the campaign trail, is tried, tested, and battle ready. He is prepared, and he is all over the Commonwealth in his quest to meet every Virginian.
On Wednesday the Adams campaign released a new video (seen above and also available on his Facebook page), and while watching it I couldn’t help but think about how far the candidate John Adams had come in a year. The 1:45-minute ad was professional and nailed the message.
In the winter of 2016, Hanover friend John Hardy Willson told me his fishing buddy of 14 years was going to run for attorney general. I paid attention because I trusted his opinion. I also suspected that Rob Bell would be taking a second shot at the AG position after his failed attempt against Mark Obenshain in 2013. Anyone who knows Rob Bell knows he is a prolific campaigner who shows up anywhere and everywhere, and his stump speeches resonate with the grassroots.
Adams, on the other hand, had never run for public office and was an unknown for many who have more than just a passing knowledge of Virginia Republican politics. However, Adams’ connection to his employer in downtown Richmond was definitely a plus with all that influence in political circles.
In March 2016, Adams attended Augusta County’s mass meeting to address his candidacy (see John Adams, Republican for Virginia Attorney General). He was by himself, no staff, just one guy alone who had two minutes to make his case to a room full of unfamiliar faces.
The next time we crossed paths was about six weeks later when Adams and his wife were in Wytheville attending the 9th Congressional District convention. Wytheville is a bit of a jaunt from Chesterfield County but the Adamses arrived early and spent time meeting folks before he addressed the convention.
A four-hour drive for a two-minute speech showed dedication, and I realized there was a determination that was not going away. In my wrap-up of the day , I noted that Adams was personable and approachable as he met and talked with people, adding, “It looks as if John Adams may be an up-and-coming star in Virginia politics.”
It has been a whirlwind of campaigning ever since. No longer traveling and campaigning alone, Adams staffed up and never slowed down. In December when he attended the Republican Advance in Richmond, I stood in the background and watched as he talked with attendees who surrounded him in the atrium.
In my follow-up post about the Advance, I wrote, “There seems to be a difference in John Adams‘ persona these days. His strongest competition, Rob Bell, removed himself from the race in November, leaving only Chuck Smith after State Senators Mark Obenshain and Bill Stanley decided not to jump in. When I first encountered Mr. Adams in March when he dropped by Augusta County, he was that new candidate who was just learning the ropes. About six weeks later I again saw him at the 9th District Convention in Wytheville with his wife. His heavy schedule of traveling and campaigning throughout the past six months has him now a polished, confident candidate and, as I talked with him Friday, he looked like an attorney general. Chalk up another rising star for the GOP.”
Mark Herring, who passed on the opportunity to run for governor this year, would be wise not to write off the up-and-coming Adams as they race toward the finish line in November. John Adams not only has the potential to upset the Democratic AG incumbent, he also gives Republicans a reliable choice for the 2021 gubernatorial race.