One of the men who wants to become Virginia's next attorney general is rolling out a plan to keep kids safer from online predators.
Republican Mark Obenshain wants to beef up the number of state attorneys responsible for prosecuting child exploitation cases. Obenshain says it's part of staying on top of criminals who use the internet to target children.
"With the changing landscape, we need to change our laws and change our tactics," Obenshain said Tuesday.
According to the Obenshain campaign, "one in five teenagers who use the internet regularly say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation online, and only a quarter of those who received such a solicitation tell a parent or other adult."
Obenshain made his latest policy announcement Tuesday alongside Albemarle Delegate Rob Bell.
"Damages done to the children can often be life-altering and severe, so these are among the most important cases we address," Bell said.
Right now, a group of three state attorneys travels the commonwealth prosecuting cases of child exploitation. In the past three years, they have convicted 75 predators in 23 localities.
Obenshain says he wants to build on that record of success by boosting the number of prosecutors employed by the attorney general's office. He also wants to dedicate some child exploitation prosecutors to specific areas with higher rates of exploitation cases.
"It may not be, necessarily, in the larger metropolitan areas," Obenshain said. "We're going to place them where they're going to have the most significant impact in protecting kids across Virginia."
Obenshain says he would also work with his former colleagues in the General Assembly to increase penalties for some related crimes.
In response, Democratic attorney General nominee Mark Herring accused Obenshain Tuesday of flip-flopping on the issues.
"Candidate Mark Obenshain is again refusing to acknowledge Senator Mark Obenshain's extreme record. It's unfortunate that during his time in the Senate, Mark Obenshain put his own personal ideology ahead of keeping children safe," Herring campaign spokesman Matt Wojtkun said.
The two will meet for at least one more live debate in October.