- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Republican Del. Rob Bell has announced his candidacy for Virginia attorney general, positioning himself as a tough-on-crime conservative who would oppose what he considers burdensome federal regulations.

Bell held a Capitol news conference Thursday to announce his candidacy for the 2017 race while also taking aim at the incumbent attorney general and his likely general election opponent, Democrat Mark Herring.

Republicans have repeatedly accused Herring of using his office to promote a liberal agenda on issues such as gay marriage and immigration, rather than uphold the state’s laws.

“He has repeatedly put partisan politics ahead of the job he was elected to perform,” Bell said of Herring.

Bell said that as attorney general, he would uphold state law regardless of whether he personally agreed with it. He also faulted Herring for supporting President Barack Obama’s requirements that states cut carbon emissions, which Republicans have said unfairly hurts coal-producing states like Virginia.

Adam Zuckerman, a spokesman for Herring, said the attorney general is “right where Virginians are on the issues and, equally important, right on the law,” and looks forward to sharing his record in the 2017 contest.

Liberal groups blasted Bell and comparing him to socially conservative former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Bell represents a Charlottesville-area district and was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2001.

A former prosecutor who now works in private practice, Bell unsuccessfully pursued the GOP nomination for attorney general in 2013.

Bell is widely presumed to be the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He is the only GOP candidate announced so far.

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