State Attorneys General Eye Higher Political Office

Recently West Virginia State Attorney General (“AG”) Patrick Morrisey announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination for incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s seat in 2018, and Maine AG Janet Mills announced that she is seeking the Democratic nomination for Maine’s open-seat race for Governor in 2018. In addition, recent reports state that Missouri AG Josh Hawley, who was elected last November, is already being courted by the Republican party to run against incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018.

AGs are elected in 43 states and Washington, D.C., and they have evolved to become among the most powerful and influential governmental actors affecting businesses today. And even though the next election is a year and half away, many AGs already have formally announced their candidacy for higher office in 2018, while others are reportedly weighing their potential candidacy. The trend of serving as a State AG in order to have a stepping stone to higher political office is not a new one, but as AGs have risen in profile and prestige, it is a trend increasingly worth watching to understand the next generation of political leaders.

The following AGs have officially declared their candidacy for higher office in 2018:

In addition to these official candidacy declarations, there have been reports that other AGs are considering a run for higher office in 2018 (none of which have yet been confirmed by the candidate):

Colorado AG Cynthia Coffman – Republican nomination for Governor

  • On July 11, AG Coffman told the The Denver Post about a possible run, “I’m a data-and research-driven person, so I have folks who are looking at those things for me. There are so many unknowns in this election, with unaffiliated voters being able to vote in primaries… You know sometimes it pays to wait, because things change… I have a personal timeline.” On July 14, U.S. Congressman Ken Buck confirmed in a phone interview with the The Denver Post that, “If she [AG Coffman] decides that she’s not going to seek (the) attorney general’s office, I would certainly keep my options open.”

District of Columbia AG Karl Racine – Democratic nomination for Mayor

  • On May 5, during a radio interview with WAMU Politics Hour, AG Racine responded to a question about a possible run for Mayor by saying, “I am having conversations with folks around town to get a sense as to what it would take to run for another position. I’m nowhere near making a decision on that. Period.”

Massachusetts AG Maura Healey – Democratic nomination for Governor

  • AG Healey’s prominence has risen in the wake of her leadership among Democratic AGs by challenging the Trump Administration on issues including immigration and the environment. According to a recent report in the The Boston Globe, the overwhelming sentiment from the state Democratic committee members is that, “… they really – really – want Attorney General Maura Healey to run.”

Michigan AG Bill Schuette – Republican nomination for Governor (open seat)

  • The News-Herald reported that on June 28, during an address to during to the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber, AG Schuette addressed the speculation by saying, “My wife and I are going to climb a mountain, figuratively speaking… But more on that at another time.”

Minnesota AG Lori Swanson – Democratic nomination for Governor (open seat)

  • In an interview with the The Star Tribune in April, AG Swanson subtly hinted about her leadership ambitions for Minnesota in the future. She said, “What’s very clear is that people are squeezed. The stock markets are robust, but for regular people, they’re up against it.”

Mississippi AG Jim Hood – Democratic nomination for Governor in 2019 (open seat)

  • According to the website Mississippi Today, at a press gathering on July 8, AG Hood addressed rumors by saying that he is considering a run for Governor in 2019 but that he needs to think about the impact on his family and financial situation before he makes a decision. He stated, “I don’t know the answer to your question at this point… I do know that we’ve got to change what we’re doing over there. We can’t keep on doing what they’re doing over there right now.”

Missouri AG Josh Hawley – Republican nomination for U.S. Senate

  • Vice President Mike Pence reportedly has reached out to AG Hawley about the possibility of challenging U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018. The Kansas City Star reported that on July 11 AG Hawley’s spokesperson confirmed that “Josh spoke to Vice President Pence this weekend and has been getting a great deal of encouragement to run.”

Nevada AG Adam Laxalt – Republican nomination for Governor (open seat)

  • After U.S. Senator Dean Heller and Lieutenant Governor Mike Hutchison took themselves out of running for governor earlier this year, media reports continue to center around AG Laxalt as the favorite to run. Wes Duncan, AG Laxalt’s First Assistant Attorney General, confirmed to The Nevada Independent that he will only run for AG if his boss runs for Governor.

Other AGs have already decided against making the political leap this election cycle. Democratic AGs George Jepsen (Connecticut), Lisa Madigan (Illinois), and Hector Balderas (New Mexico) put an end to speculation by announcing that they are not running for their party’s nomination for Governor of their respective state in 2018.  Whether they seek election to higher office in the future is another matter entirely.

We will continue to keep you apprised of AG election news and information. Please consider signing-up to receive Cozen O’Connor’s The State AG Report, a weekly update on the AG stories and trends that matter.

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