It’s only just recently that so many state attorneys general have been garnering the kind of attention worthy of national headlines. The multi-state lawsuit over Obamacare set in motion a growing wave of Republican AGs taking on the federal government for what many of them argue is unprecedented overreach.
From Nevada to New York, Republicans are seizing the opportunity to turn mounting discontent with the president and members of his party, into AG election wins.
The Associated Press recently published a “5 things to watch” list in a series of states and the AGs came up in a number of them. Here are some links, highlights, and other notes:
Republican John Suthers is vacating his post as Colorado’s attorney general. The race to replace him is on between GOP nominee Cynthia Coffman and Democrat Don Quick.
The legalization of same-sex marriage has become an emerging discussion, highlighting a major difference between these two candidates.
In 2006, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage. Quick has said, if elected, he would not defend this part of the constitution, while Coffman vows to not allow her personal opinions interfere with her responsibility to defend of all of Colorado’s laws.
Coffman is no stranger to public service. Her first job out of law school was in the Georgia AG’s office. She then went on to work as a lawyer for the 1996 Olympic games, ultimately moving to Colorado to begin work as legislative council in the Office of the General Assembly.
She was also chief counsel to former governor Bill Owens and currently serves as deputy attorney general.
Quick has also worked in government for most of his career, serving as district attorney as well as deputy AG under Ken Salazar.
Last Tuesday, sitting Republican Attorney General Tom Horne lost in an intense battle against GOP primary challenger Mark Brnovich. Horne was better funded, but Brnovich was aided early on by outside voter-education efforts that targeted Horne.
A fairly reliable red state, Arizona’s race for AG is shaping up to be one of the more competitive in recent years, as Brnovich takes on Democrat Felecia Rotellini, who lost by only four points to Horne in 2010 for the same seat.
Because Republican Gov. Jan Brewer will not be on the ballot, Brnovich will not have the benefit of a popular incumbent governor to help with down-ticket performance.
Rotellini ran unopposed in her primary freeing her up to outraise her general-election foe.
Brnovich won the primary despite his lack of funding and now, as the party’s nominee, should have a money advantage he didn’t have before.
New Mexico also has an open attorney general seat, which Republicans are eyeing as a potential pick-up opportunity.
Susan Riedel is the GOP candidate running against Democrat Hector Balderas. Riedel is facing an uphill climb as her opponent has far outpaced her in fundraising.
Balderas, current state auditor, came under early fire by Republicans for saying he believes President Obama is taking the “right approach” to addressing the faltering economy and claiming that New Mexicans “don’t mind paying taxes.”
As auditor, Balderas was previously under investigation by the New Mexico attorney general’s office for misuse of funds.
Riedel has the support of Gov. Susana Martinez, who enjoys high approval ratings and a “comfortable lead” over her reelection opponent.
New Mexicans know Riedel as the prosecutor in the 2002 case of “baby Brianna,” a five-month-old who died at the hands of her parents. Both parents were convicted on multiple charges.
With the support of the Latina governor in a border state, and a long prosecutorial career, Riedel may just be on the road to becoming the first Republican elected as New Mexico’s attorney general since 1987.
Despite a recent poll that shows Democrat Susan Happ leading Republican Brad Schimel by seven points, Schimel could surprise in the race for the next attorney general.
Both Schimel and Happ currently serve as district attorneys. However, Schimel is running away with significant endorsements from the law-enforcement community – important for a candidate looking to become the state’s chief law enforcement official.
A key factor in this race is the role the Wisconsin AG will play in the ongoing legal battles over the controversial law known as Act 10. Gov. Walker signed the bill, which increased the contribution made by public employees to their health care and pensions, in early 2011. Republicans and conservative activists who have supported Walker’s reforms fear that if the AG’s office falls to Democrats this November, all the progress they see the state as having made as a result of the law – including turning a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a projected $1 billion surplus – will almost certainly be reversed.
The Wisconsin supreme court recently upheld the law as constitutional despite ongoing legal challenges by opponents.
The Happ campaign did not return a request for comment when contacted to confirm whether she would defend the law as AG despite her disapproval of it.
The AP actually left Nevada off its list, but the AG race here has been getting national attention. The mere fact that it’s happening in the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s state, as he works to hold onto the Senate, makes it notable.
Most press attention focuses on the “political dynasties” involved – Republican Adam Laxalt is the grandson of former Nevada governor, U.S. Senator, and Ronald Reagan confidant, Paul Laxalt, and Democrat Ross Miller, current secretary of state, is the son another former Nevada governor, Bob Miller.
Aside from their names, here in Nevada, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s imminent reelection and endorsement of Laxalt, the support Miller is sure to get from Sen. Harry Reid, and the influence outside political organizations are hoping to have on the race make this one of the most closely watched races in the state.
– Ciara Matthews is a national political reporter for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.