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A State Attorneys General Makeover: 30 Elections, 13 New FacesNovember 16, 2022
Much of the news coverage from last week’s midterm elections focused on control of Congress, with both the House and the Senate in play. But important changes to the roster of state attorneys general were also taking shape. Upticks in political spending and electoral attention coincided with the steadily expanding role that state attorneys general from both parties have been playing in consumer protection and technology, financial, antitrust and healthcare enforcement. The increasing clout of state attorneys general took on even greater importance this election season, as campaigns reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. Many candidates emphasized what they would do to limit or defend reproductive rights, attracting both donations and votes.
This year, 31 states (including Washington, D.C.) held elections for attorney general. Before the election, the Republican Party controlled 28 attorney general seats while Democrats controlled 23. Republicans succeeded in flipping one—upsetting the longtime Democratic incumbent in Iowa. Democrats flipped another—picking up Vermont (which had only a temporary GOP fill-in). And Arizona remains too close to call, but could yield another Democratic pickup after a likely recount. But even where parties stayed the same, many states saw a changing of the guard, including Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and D.C. All told, 13 new state attorneys general will be sworn into office over the coming weeks.
O’Melveny’s State Attorneys General Litigation & Investigations Group offers a snapshot of the 2022 midterm results.
- Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) beat Democratic challenger Wendell Major (Tarrant Chief of Police) with 68 percent of the vote.1 AG Marshall was first appointed in 2017 and was elected in 2018 with 58.8 percent of the vote.
- Democrat Kris Mayes (former state Corporation Commission member) currently leads over Trump-endorsed Abraham Hamadeh (U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer and former prosecutor) with a little over 50 percent of the vote, but the race appears headed towards a recount. Mayes, a former Republican, switched to the Democratic Party in 2019, and focused her campaign on voting rights, reproductive choice, and climate policy. Hamadeh’s campaign focused on issues like border security, law and order, and protecting the Second Amendment and “the rights of our children at all stages, beginning at conception.” AG Mark Brnovich (R) was limited to two terms under Arizona law.
- Republican Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, a U.S. Army Reserve colonel who served in Iraq, beat Democratic opponent Jesse Gibson (attorney in private practice) with almost 68 percent of the vote. After securing the primary nomination, Griffin promised to “push back against federal overreach, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with law enforcement, and work to keep violent criminals off our streets.” He replaces AG Leslie Rutledge (R), who was term-limited.
- Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) defeated Republican Nathan Hochman (former federal prosecutor, now in private practice) with more than 58 percent of the vote. AG Bonta was appointed in 2021 to replace Xavier Becerra (D), who resigned the position to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.
- Attorney General Phil Weiser (D) beat two challengers—Republican John Kellner (District Attorney) and Libertarian William Robinson—with over 54 percent of the vote. AG Weiser was first elected in 2018 with 51.6 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General William Tong (D) defeated Republican Jessica Kordas (attorney in private practice) and two other candidates with almost 57 percent of the vote. AG Tong was first elected in 2018 with 52.5 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General Kathy Jennings (D) defeated Republican Julianne Murray (attorney in private practice) with almost 54 percent of the vote. AG Jennings was first elected in 2018 with 61.3 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) defeated Democrat Aramis Ayala (civil rights attorney and former Florida State Attorney) with more than 60 percent of the vote. AG Moody was first elected in 2018 with 52.1 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General Chris Carr (R) defeated Democratic opponent Jen Jordan (State Senator) and Libertarian candidate Martin Cowen (former Probate Court judge) with almost 52 percent of the vote. He was first elected in 2018 by a similar margin.
- Former Republican Congressman Raúl Labrador defeated Democrat Tom Arkoosh (attorney in private practice) with more than 62 percent of the vote. In the Republican primary, Labrador defeated the incumbent, AG Lawrence Wasden, who was first elected in 2002. A cofounder of the Freedom Caucus while in Congress, Labrador vowed as an Attorney General candidate to “stand up for individual liberty, push back against Biden’s unconstitutional overreach, defend our state’s sovereignty, protect our Idaho conservative values, and keep our families safe.”
- Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) defeated Republican candidate Thomas DeVore (attorney in private practice) and Libertarian candidate Daniel Robin (retired attorney) with almost 54 percent of the vote. AG Raoul was first elected in 2018 with 54.7 percent of the vote.
- Republican Brenna Bird (County Attorney) toppled the Democratic incumbent, Tom Miller, who had been the longest-serving state Attorney General in the United States. First elected in 1978, AG Miller had received 76.5 percent of the vote as recently as 2018. Bird’s campaign highlighted her prior experience as counsel to former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, fighting against the Obama Administration’s “radical overreach.” Bird promised to similarly fight against the “authoritarianism” and “radical agenda” of the Biden Administration. According to the Des Moines Register, state and national Republicans saw the Iowa race as a top pick-up opportunity, given the GOP’s recent success in Iowa’s federal and statewide races and Biden’s unpopularity in the state. The national Republican Attorneys General Association funneled $2 million into Bird’s campaign, allowing her to hammer AG Miller in her advertising. A group called Alliance for Consumers was also behind a six-figure ad campaign accusing AG Miller of mismanaging settlement money from consumer protection cases set aside for the National Association of Attorneys General. AG Miller received close to $1 million from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, but it was not enough to overcome Bird’s challenge.
- Kansas’s former Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated Democrat Chris Mann (former deputy county prosecutor and police officer) with almost 51 percent of the vote. The win represents a political comeback for Kobach, who suffered two big election losses—in the 2019 Kansas governor’s race and the 2020 U.S. Senate primary—that called attention to his hardline stance on immigration issues and the Trump Administration’s controversial voter fraud commission. The Republican incumbent, AG Derek Schmidt, chose to run for Governor in 2022, losing a close race to Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.
- Democrat Anthony G. Brown (U.S. Representative and former Lieutenant Governor) defeated Republican Michael Peroutka (former County Councilman) with almost 63 percent of the vote. Brown, a three-term Congressman and two-term Lieutenant Governor, will be Maryland’s first Black Attorney General. He ran on a platform that focused on voting and reproductive rights, cannabis legalization, criminal justice reform, gun violence prevention, environmental protection, and racial justice. The Democratic incumbent, AG Brian Frosh, who was first elected in 2014, did not seek reelection.
- Democratic nominee Andrea Campbell (former Boston City Councilor) defeated Jay McMahon (attorney in private practice and member of the State Committee for the Massachusetts Republican Party) with more than 62 percent of the vote. Campbell, who unsuccessfully ran for Mayor of Boston in 2021, will be the first Black woman to serve as Massachusetts Attorney General. Campbell’s campaign focused on justice and equity across various facets of society, including consumer protection (specifically, the opioid crisis), the environment, housing, education, healthcare, and immigration. The incumbent, AG Maura Healey (D), first elected in 2014, will be the next Governor of Massachusetts.
- Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), running for a second and final term, defeated attorney Matthew DePerno, a Trump-backed candidate. AG Nessel defeated DePerno and two third-party candidates with more than 53 percent of the vote; in her 2018 race, she received 49 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) defeated Republican business attorney Jim Schultz with more than 50 percent of the vote. When he was first elected in 2018, Ellison received 49 percent of the vote.
- State Senator Mike Hilgers, the Republican nominee, cruised to victory over Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Larry Bolinger with almost 70 percent of the vote. Hilgers currently serves as the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, while also maintaining a private practice as founding partner at Hilgers Graben, a firm that specializes in “geo-arbitrage”—minimizing overhead and maximizing client savings by handling litigation from a low cost-of-living state. It was recently named the sixth fastest growing legal company nationwide. As Attorney General, Hilgers promises to “fight federal overreach,” “protect the Constitution,” “stand with law enforcement,” “defend innocent life,” and “keep communities safe.” The Republican incumbent, AG Doug Peterson, who was first elected in 2014, did not seek reelection.
- Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) defeated Republican Sigal Chattah (attorney) and Libertarian John Kennedy (who remained on the ballot despite not meeting the qualifications for the position and no longer wanting to run) with more than 51 percent of the vote. Ford was first elected in 2018 with 47.2 percent of the vote.
- Democrat Raul Torrez (County District Attorney) defeated Republican Jeremy Gay (Marine Corps veteran) with more than 55 percent of the vote. Torrez served as both a White House Fellow and senior advisor to the Department of Justice in the Obama Administration before returning to New Mexico to serve as a District Attorney. Torrez promised to push for more funding for the Attorney General’s office, particularly to hire more experienced lawyers for the Consumer Protection division, so that the office could take on more in-house legal work. AG Hector Balderas, the Democratic incumbent, was term-limited.
- Attorney General Letitia James (D) defeated Republican challenger Michael Henry (attorney) with more than 54 percent of the vote. AG James, who recently sued Donald Trump, his adult children, and the Trump Organization over claims of widespread fraud, was first elected in 2018 with 62.4 percent of the vote.
- Former U.S. Attorney and Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley (R) defeated Democrat Timothy Lamb (attorney) with more than 71 percent of the vote. AG Wrigley was nominated by Governor Doug Burgum to serve out the remainder of Republican Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s term after Stenehjem’s unexpected death in January 2022. In his initial nine months in office, AG Wrigley inherited a series of crises, including an almost $1.8 million cost overrun on a remodeling project, and the deletion of Stenehjem’s and others’ official email accounts. AG Wrigley promised to focus his upcoming term on “law and order leadership,” noting that “safety and peace in our communities are eroding.”
- Attorney General Dave Yost (R) defeated Democrat Jeff Crossman (attorney and City Councilman) with more than 60 percent of the vote. AG Yost was first elected in 2018 with 52.2 percent of the vote.
- Republican Gentner Drummond notched an easy victory over Libertarian Lynda Steele (veteran and entrepreneur) with almost 74 percent of the vote. Drummond, a former F-15 fighter pilot, attorney, rancher, and businessman, previously defeated the sitting Attorney General, John O’Connor (R), who was appointed by Governor Kevin Stitt in July 2021, after former Attorney General Mike Hunter resigned during his first term. A political newcomer, Drummond focused on “fighting against federal overreach,” defending Second Amendment rights, and protecting victims of sexual assault by clearing the state’s rape-kit backlog.
- Attorney General Peter Neronha (D) defeated Republican Charles Calenda (trial attorney and former Special Assistant Attorney General) with more than 61 percent of the vote. AG Neronha was first elected in 2018 with 79.8 percent of the vote.
- Attorney General Alan Wilson (R), first elected in 2010, won reelection unopposed.
- Marty J. Jackley (former Attorney General and U.S. Attorney) advanced from the Republican convention and won election unopposed. The seat had previously been held by AG Jason Raynsborg (R), who was seeking reelection when he was impeached and removed from office in June 2022. Governor Kristi Noem appointed Mark Vargo (R), (former state’s attorney) to serve out the remainder of the term. Jackley is a former president of the National Association of Attorneys General.
- Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) defeated Democrat Rochelle Garza (civil rights attorney) and Libertarian Mark Ash (who published, then retracted, an op-ed supporting Garza over Paxton) with over 53 percent of the vote. AG Paxton was first elected in 2014.
- Democrat Charity Clark (former Chief of Staff to Attorney General T.J. Donovan) scored a comfortable victory over Republican Michael Tagliavia (retired former business owner) with more than 65 percent of the vote. Donovan, first elected in 2016, stepped down in June 2022 to take a position at online gaming company Roblox. Republican Susanne R. Young, appointed to fill the vacancy, indicated at the time that she did not intend to run for a full term. Clark’s campaign centered on fighting for small businesses and consumers (with a particular focus on cryptocurrency), protecting the environment, prioritizing public safety and criminal justice reform, and addressing violence against women.
- Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) defeated Republican candidate Eric Toney (County District Attorney) with almost 51 percent of the vote. Kaul was first elected in 2018 with 49.4 percent of the vote.
- Brian Schwalb (trial attorney) advanced from the Democratic primary and won the general election unopposed. Schwalb’s identified priorities include enhancing public safety, protecting consumers, safeguarding the environment, and fighting for civil rights. The Democratic incumbent, AG Karl Racine, who was first elected in 2014, did not seek reelection.
1 Election results reflect vote counts as of November 15, 2022. See https://www.npr.org/2022/11/08/1133362263/attorney-general-election-results-live-2022.
This memorandum is a summary for general information and discussion only and may be considered an advertisement for certain purposes. It is not a full analysis of the matters presented, may not be relied upon as legal advice, and does not purport to represent the views of our clients or the Firm. Daniel R. Suvor, an O’Melveny partner licensed to practice law in California, Lauren Kaplan, an O’Melveny counsel licensed to practice law in California, Steve Brody, an O’Melveny partner licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, and Ross B. Galin, an O'Melveny partner licensed to practice law in New York, contributed to the content of this newsletter. The views expressed in this newsletter are the views of the authors except as otherwise noted.
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