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Virginia elects a Duke as top cop

Jason Miyares

SUMMARY: Miyares will be the first Duke to hold the office of attorney general in Virginia and the highest-ranking state government official in the university’s history.

By Jim Heffernan (’96, ’17M) 

Virginia’s new attorney general is proud of his Cuban-American heritage, proud of his record of public service and proud to be a JMU Duke. 

Jason Miyares (’98), a Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Mark Herring in the election on Nov. 2, 2021, was sworn in as the state’s first Latino attorney general on Jan 15.

A former commonwealth’s attorney and state delegate from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Miyares said he will be impartial in upholding the law. “I want to be an attorney general who will call balls and strikes,” he said. “The attorney general does not take an oath of allegiance to any individual, and certainly not to any political party or political leader. My allegiance will be to the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution and the people of Virginia.” 

Miyares said he “loved every minute” of his Madison Experience—so much so that he lived on campus all four years. “I loved those fall and spring days on the Quad,” he said. “And the snow days, too.” 

He served as chair of the JMU College Republicans, which gave him valuable experience volunteering for political campaigns, and was active in the campus faith community, including InterVarsity and Cru

He studied business administration and took a handful of political science classes. “I found almost all of my professors at JMU to be engaging, thoughtful and challenging,” he said. 

But it was the relationships Miyares built at JMU that have stayed with him. 

“I think what makes JMU so special is that you are in this great college town, but you also get to know your classmates well,” he said, adding, “I would not be the attorney general-elect if it wasn’t for the relationships that I built at JMU.” Two of his closest political advisers during his campaign were fellow Dukes Gary Marx (’97) and Dave Rexrode (’01). 

After graduating from JMU, Miyares went on to earn a law degree from the College of William & Mary. He then returned to Virginia Beach, where he practiced corporate law before becoming a state prosecutor. 

Jason Miyares headshot
Miyares will take an oath of allegiance to Virginia in January.

“I took a pay cut,” he said, “but it was the best decision I’ve made. The job teaches you a lot of things, but mainly it gives you a unique perspective on victims.” As attorney general, Miyares has promised to be a voice for those who do not have one and to crack down on human trafficking.

Miyares and his family believe in the American dream. His mother fled communist Cuba in the fall of 1965, “literally penniless and homeless and not knowing where her next meal would come from,” he said. As a child, some of his earliest memories were teaching her the Pledge of Allegiance and watching her become a U.S. citizen. In the fall of 2015, nearly 50 years to the day after leaving the Fidel Castro regime, Miriam Miyares stepped into a booth and cast her vote for her son to represent her in the Virginia House of Delegates. 

America is not perfect, Miyares said, but for many people, our nation remains a beacon of hope and opportunity. “We have provided more second chances to more people, from more backgrounds, more faiths, more colors and creeds, than any country that has ever existed in the history of the world,” he said.  

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Mirayes is proudest of how he carried himself during floor debates. “Our politics has gotten coarse, and both parties are guilty of it,” he said. “I’ve always had the attitude that it makes no sense to get up and try to demonize people that you disagree with. I always tried to help raise the level of decorum that I think is generally needed in our body politic.” He also is proud of having authored legislation giving foster children in Virginia free tuition to state colleges and universities. 

Miyares will be the first Duke to hold the office of attorney general in Virginia and the highest-ranking state government official in the university’s history. In recent years, the post has been a stepping stone for Republicans looking to become governor, but Miyares said he’s focused on the task at hand.  

“I'm not thinking of anything other than a heavy transition period the next few months and then getting sworn in on Jan. 15, 2022,” he said.

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Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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