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The State AG Races You Need to Watch
A GOP governor without a like-minded attorney general is considerably hobbled.

Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette

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Jim Geraghty

North Little Rock attorney David Sterling, a Republican, is running on an explicitly federalist and conservative message:

Arkansans want an Attorney General who will protect our liberty from an overreaching federal government, protect our children from predators, and protect our tax dollars from fraud. The federal government is slowly creeping in on state authority and individual liberty, and my first priority as your Attorney General will be to defend the Constitution and protect the liberty of all Arkansans.

Former RNC legal counsel Leslie Rutledge is embracing a similar theme, asserting that she “knows that the state Attorney General is the most important elected official in the federalist system when it comes to protecting states rights.” She has been endorsed by Mike Huckabee. Arkansas Republicans hold their primary May 20.

Wisconsin
Incumbent J. B. Van Hollen surprised his fellow Republicans by announcing he would not seek another term.

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Two Democrats are competing for the AG nomination, Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne and longtime state representative Jon Richards of Milwaukee. The likely Republican nominee is Waukesha County district attorney Brad Schimel, who’s warning that his rivals would turn the office into a partisan operation: “My top priority will be to serve and protect. In addition, our state cannot return to an era when the Attorney General’s office is filing frivolous lawsuits to score political points or to drive an ideological agenda.”

Richards boasts that “I have a long record of fighting for every woman’s right to control her own health care decisions” and pledges he’ll “restore the Department of Justice’s historic role in protecting consumers and preserving Wisconsin’s natural resources,” while Ozanne filed an open-meetings lawsuit against state GOP leaders over the procedure they followed in passing Walker’s collective-bargaining overhaul.

Colorado
Incumbent Republican John Suthers is term-limited. Former Adams County district attorney Don Quick is expected to be the Democratic nominee, while two Republicans are competing for their party’s nomination: House minority leader Mark Waller and Cynthia Coffman, currently the chief deputy attorney general, who is married to Republican U.S. representative Mike Coffman.

Waller says he’s running “to ensure that our justice system treats every Coloradan fairly. It doesn’t matter if they are the victim of discrimination or one of our many small businesses facing a frivolous law suit; all parties deserve to be treated fairly.” He contends a bill that the Democratic-controlled state legislature passed last year amounts to the “Trial Lawyer Employment Act of 2013” and warns that the new law has “potential to have a devastating impact on our economy because frivolous lawsuits will force many of our small businesses to shut their doors leaving their employees without jobs.”

Coffman pledges:

If elected as your Attorney General, I will continue to take legal action and fight back when local jurisdictions break the law with their attempts to ban hydraulic fracturing. Efforts to outlaw hydraulic fracturing effectively deprive landowners and companies of their property rights in contravention of the law. Similarly, bans pertaining to oil and gas processes result in an odd patchwork of regulations that serve to impede activity deemed necessary by the Colorado General Assembly. . . . In those instances when interest groups and local governments try to usurp authority from law-abiding landowners and individuals in the oil and gas industry, I will enforce the law — even if it means taking overreaching, anti-drilling jurisdictions to court.

Colorado Republicans hold their primary June 24.

New Mexico
Incumbent Democrat Gary King is term-limited.

State auditor Hector Balderas is running for the Democrats. Republicans are expected to nominate Susan Riedel, who touts that she is known statewide for “her successful prosecutions in some of the state’s most infamous criminal cases — including the ‘Baby Brianna’ case and the conviction of Jesse Avalos for the murder of New Mexico State University freshman Carly Martinez.” Riedel’s campaign is likely to emphasize her personal story and family; her campaign website notes:

Riedel’s compassion for the victims of crime was reinforced in 2004 when her own husband was killed by a drunk driver during a family trip to a soccer tournament in 2004. She and her three sons persevered, with the oldest, Christopher, earning admission to the United States Naval Academy and a tour in Afghanistan as a SeaBee. Chris is now enrolled in the Georgetown University Law Center and will follow his mother into the field of law, along with her second son Jonathan, a Deputy Sheriff in Dona Ana County, and youngest son Patrick, a college student.

 

There is one other state attorney-general office currently held by a Democrat where the GOP has a shot (but remains an underdog), in . . . 

Rhode Island
Peter Kilmartin, the Democratic incumbent, is running for his second term in 2014, and in a heavily Democratic state, he remains a favorite. But Governing magazine concludes: “Kilmartin has one potential bit of baggage: While serving in the legislature, he voted to support bonds for 38 Studios, a video game company affiliated with major leaguer Curt Schilling, that failed spectacularly, exposing the state to major losses.” The Republican nominee is expected to be state senator Dawson Hodgson, and he’s already pursuing the issue with vigor: “The AG voted for the 38 Studios project as a rep. He is, in fact, partially responsible for this. Unlike the other legislators who were part of this he’s the only one who six months later became the attorney general. He could have done something about this.” However, Hodgson will need a serious influx of funds to make the race competitive. He has $21,717 in cash on hand, compared with Kilmartin’s $154,000.

 

The Republican State Leadership Committee was formed in 2002 to provide national assistance for GOP candidates running for lower-ticket offices — lieutenant governors, state attorneys general, secretaries of state, and state legislators. The RSLC spent about $30 million in the 2010 cycle and more than $40 million in the 2012 cycle. Now the branch that dealt with state AG races, the Republican Attorneys General Association, is exploring the possibility of becoming a separate entity — an indication of how consequential the position has become to the GOP agenda at the state level.

— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot on NRO. He is not related to Alaska’s attorney general, Michael Geraghty.



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