FRONT ROYAL – Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says he is thinking ahead to a run for governor while maintaining focus on his current job.

Herring has confirmed that he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in 2021 after Gov. Ralph Northam’s term ends. Herring started in his second four-year term as attorney general in 2017.

In 2013 he defeated then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican.

“What I did was confirm what my future plans are likely to be and that’s a ways off but right now I am staying focused on being the best attorney general I can,” Herring told the Northern Virginia Daily during an event he attended at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on Friday.

That means he and his office are working on a package of legislative proposals to combat hate crimes in Virginia.

“Hate crimes are on the rise in Virginia,” Herring said. “We have seen an increase of 64 percent in hate crimes since 2013, over 200 in Virginia alone in every category of bias; that mirrors an increase that the FBI has seen around the country.”

They are also looking at criminal justice reforms, such as the cash bail system.

Herring, however, did not directly answer whether he would step down as attorney general if he were to continue to seek the governor’s office, as challenged by Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Mount Jackson.

“I would just say what my future plans look to be,” Herring said Friday. “I am going to stay focused on being the best attorney general I can. I have a lot of work I still want to accomplish as attorney general.”

Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com