As the office of State Attorney General (AG) rises in profile and prestige, it is expected that the trend of AGs pursing higher office will continue. This trend is significant because of the implications it may have on how AGs approach their role, exercise their powers and duties, and engage in legislative activities.
At the beginning of 2018, eight AGs were seeking higher office – six were running for Governor and two for U.S. Senate. As the primary season gets underway and shifts into high-gear this month, an update on these key races is timely. As companies consider who will prevail in November as part of their legal and political strategy, it is important to consider which AGs will go on to wield influence as Governor or U.S. Senator.
AGs Running for Governor (6)
(OUT) Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman (R) – Governor John Hickenlooper (D) is term-limited. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, all candidates who wish to participate in a primary election must be placed on the ballot by assembly designation, by petition, or by filing a write-in candidate affidavit of intent. Earlier this year, AG Coffman announced that she would bypass the petition process and seek to qualify for the primary at the Republican State Assembly Convention, which occurred on April 14 to nominate statewide candidates for the June 26 primary. To have qualified for the primary ballot at the Assembly Convention, a candidate must have received at least 30% of the total delegate vote. Unexpectedly, AG Coffman only managed to garner 6% of the vote, making her ineligible for the primary ballot. The top vote getter was State Treasurer Walker Stapelton with 43%, followed by former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez with 32%. Because the deadline to file either a major party candidate petition or a write-in affidavit with the state Secretary of State’s office has passed, AG Coffman is out of the race for Governor. Political pundits speculate that AG Coffman’s moderate position on high-profile social issues may have played a role in her defeat.
(Still in) Maine AG Janet Mills (D) – Governor Paul LePage (R) is term-limited. The Maine Democratic primary election is on June 5. The field is crowded, with six other candidates in addition to AG Mills vying for the nomination, including former state House Speaker Mark Eves, state Senator Mark Dion, and businessman Adam Cote. Interestingly, Maine has not elected back-to-back gubernatorial candidates from the same party in over 50 years. If this trend continues, Democrats have the advantage. According to reports, there is no clear Democratic leader at this point, although AG Mills is considered a strong contender because of her vocal opposition to the Trump Administration on issues including healthcare and the environment.
(Still in) Michigan AG Bill Schuette (R) – Governor Rick Snyder (R) is term-limited. The Republican primary is on August 7. AG Schuette is the reported front-runner and has been endorsed by President Trump. His Republican opponents include state Senator Patrick Colbeck and Lt. Governor Brian Calley. Assuming that he wins the Republican primary election on August 7, he will likely be embroiled in a very tough general election. On the Democratic side, former state Senator Gretchen Whitmer and businessman Shri Thanedar, who is self-funding his campaign, are reported to be in a dead heat. Thanedar, who describes himself as a “fiscally savvy Bernie Sanders,” is hoping to ride the nationwide progressive momentum, and would pose a stark contrast to AG Schuette. Real Clear Politics, which aggregates national polling data, predicts the Michigan Governor’s general election will be a “toss-up.”
(Still in) Nevada AG Adam Laxalt (R) – Governor Brian Sandoval (R) is term-limited. The Republican primary is June 12, and while there are eight candidates competing in the primary, the two leading contenders are AG Laxalt and State Treasurer Dan Schwartz. The Democratic primary is also expected to be close. The reported top two candidates are two Clark County Commissioners, Chairman Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani. A recent poll commissioned by The Nevada Independent shows AG Laxalt and Chairman Sisolak with commanding leads. Assuming AG Laxalt wins the Republican primary, he will face a very contentious general election, as the state has experienced an incremental Democratic shift. Most recently in 2016, the state legislature flipped from Republican to Democrat, and Hillary Clinton won the state’s electoral votes for President. Real Clear Politics predicts the Nevada Governor’s general election will be a toss-up.
(Still in) Ohio AG Mike DeWine (R) – Governor John Kasich (R) is term-limited. AG DeWine is facing Lt. Governor Mary Taylor in the primary on May 8. The race is shaping-up to be a contest of conservative credentials. AG DeWine has received the coveted endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party, while Lt. Governor Taylor has been endorsed by Governor Kasich and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. According to reports, AG DeWine and Lt. Governor Taylor have spent almost $10 million combined in their quest for the Republican nomination. Ohio is one of 17 states that elects the governor and lieutenant governor separately in the general election. AG DeWine and Lt. Governor Taylor have thrown their support behind their respective preferred running mates. AG DeWine is supporting Ohio Secretary of State Jon Hustead, previously a candidate for Governor, while Lt. Governor Taylor has backed Nathan Estruth, the former CEO of P&G subsidiary iMFLUX. Assuming AG DeWine prevails in the primary, he will face a very competitive general election against the Democrat nominee, who will likely be either former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and former AG) Richard Cordray or former U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Real Clear Politics predicts the Ohio’s Governor’s general election will be a toss-up.
(Still in) South Dakota AG Marty Jackley (R) – Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) is term-limited. The primary election is June 5. AG Jackley’s main competitor in the primary is U.S. Congresswoman Kristi Noem. According to recent polls, Congresswoman Noem is touted as having the competitive edge. In light of the strong position that Republicans have in the state, the winner of the Republican primary is expected to go on to victory in the general election against the likely Democratic nominee, Minority Leader of the state Senate, Billie Sutton.
AGs Running for U.S. Senate (2)
The four-year terms of the Missouri and West Virginia AGs seats do not expire until 2020. As such, if Republican AGs Josh Hawley and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey are unsuccessful in their respective bids for U.S. Senate, they will remain AG for the next two years.
(Still in) Missouri AG Josh Hawley (R) – Incumbent Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) is seeking a third term in what is characterized as being one of the most competitive races for U.S. Senate this cycle. Missouri AG Hawley is the Republican front-runner and has been endorsed by President Trump. The primary election is scheduled for August 7. Assuming he wins the Republican nomination, AG Hawley is likely to attempt to capitalize on the Republican momentum that resulted in President Trump winning the state by 20 points in 2016. Both Senator McCaskill and the AG, however, are facing problems within their own parties. Senator McCaskill has been criticized by African American leaders for her lack of engagement, while AG Hawley has become vocal in the scandal involving Governor Eric Greitens (R), who he has publicly called on to resign. Real Clear Politics predicts the Missouri U.S. Senate general election to be a toss-up.
(Still in) West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey (R) – Incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D) is seeking a second term. The Republican primary is crowded with six candidates, including reported front-runners AG Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins, and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. The Republican primary is on May 8, and the race is receiving a considerable amount of national media attention. According to reports, the national Democratic Party has inserted itself into the fray and launched a campaign designed to propel Blankenship’s candidacy. Given Blankenship’s past legal troubles (he served a year in prison following an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine during his tenure as Massey Energy CEO), Democrats believe he will be the weakest Republican candidate given Senator Manchin’s vulnerability in a state that remains highly supportive of President Trump. The dynamics of this race are very fluid. Recent polls conducted by Fox News and the GOPAC Election Fund both show AG Morrisey and Congressman Jenkins in a dead heat alternating between the top two spots followed by Blakenship in third.
In addition to these races, we are closely tracking the 31 AG elections in 2018. For daily coverage of AG election news, insights, and polls, we encourage you to visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Election Tracker.