2018: The Top 5 AG Primary Elections to Watch

On March 6, the AG primary election season will kick off in Texas. While the Texas primary election is a no-brainer, with both Republican incumbent Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson unopposed, the next seven months will have its share of competitive and high-profile AG primary elections.

The outcome of AG elections in 2018 could have a major impact on the AG political landscape, which currently stands at 27 Republicans, 23 Democrats, and 1 Independent. There are 31 confirmed AG races, including 10 open seats[1] with the potential for more open seats if additional incumbent AGs get elected to higher office.

For daily coverage of AG election news, insights, and polls, we encourage you to visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Election Tracker. This online portal will provide you with information on the candidates and allow you to sign up for primary and general election night emails and/or text messages.

Below, in chronological order based on primary date, are my top 5 AG primary races to watch.

March 20

Illinois Democratic Primary
(Open seat) AG Madigan’s announcement in the fall of 2017 that she would not seek a fifth term sent shockwaves around the national AG community. Her announcement was unexpected and there were rumors at one point that AG Madigan was considering a run for governor. Not even 24 hours after AG Madigan’s announcement, prospective candidates began leaking to the press their intention to run for AG. The filing deadline passed on December 4 so the table is now set, with a total of 10 candidates (eight Democrats and two Republicans). With a little over one month before the primary, State Senator Kwame Raoul is the reported front-runner. According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, he leads the pack of Democrats in campaign contributions – having raised $554,039 since January 1, 2018 and, as of the time this report, has a total of $1.6 million cash on hand.[2] Senator Raoul has picked up several key endorsements including from the Cook County Democrats (Chicago). His Democratic opponents are:

  • Scott Drury, State Representative[3]
  • Sharon Fairley, former Assistant AG, federal prosecutor, and Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority
  • Aaron Goldstein, criminal defense and civil rights attorney
  • Renato Marrioti, attorney and former federal prosecutor
  • Pat Quinn, former Governor of Illinois
  • Nancy Rotering, Mayor of the City of Highland Park
  • Jesse Ruiz, attorney

On the Republican side, Erika Harold, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Miss America, has the momentum and fundraising success over litigator Gary Grasso. According to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, she has $205,395.64 cash on hand, almost double that of Grasso.[4]

June 5

Alabama Republican Primary
(Incumbent) Republican incumbent AG Steve Marshall was appointed to the position in February 2017 following the appointment of former Republican AG Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate. With the filing deadline having passed on February 9, the ballot is complete and AG Marshall is facing a crowded primary. AG Marshall’s challengers for the nomination are attorney and former Trump campaign official Chess Bedsole, former AG Troy King (appointed in 2004, elected in 2006, and lost to former AG Luther Strange in the Republican primary in 2010), and former Acting AG and Chief Deputy AG Alice Martin. The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) unanimously voted to endorse AG Marshall[5] at their annual Winter National Meeting. At the end of January 2018, according to the Alabama Electronic Fair Campaign Practices Act Reporting System, Bedsole leads his competitors in fundraising with a balance of $634,607 (which includes a sizable personal loan to his campaign). He is followed by AG Marshall with $460,487, Martin with $350,965, and King with $226,492. If no candidate receives a majority (50%) of the primary vote, a runoff election will occur between the top two candidates on July 17. At this time, a runoff scenario is a very real possibility. Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, trial attorney Chris Christie (no relation to former Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) and attorney Joseph Siegelman, the son of former Governor and AG Don Siegelman, are competing for the nomination. The state Democratic Party is hoping to ride the wave of momentum following Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory in December.

California Top-Two Primary
(Incumbent) California is interesting because it follows a top-two primary format. In other words, all candidates for AG are listed on the same primary ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of political party, will advance to the general election. As a result, it is possible for two candidates of the same party to compete in the general election. Democratic incumbent AG Xavier Becerra is the likely favorite to secure one of the top two spots. AG Becerra has national name recognition having served as AG since being appointed by Governor Jerry Brown following the election of former AG Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Before that, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years. AG Becerra has also gained considerable publicity for joining with Democratic AGs in numerous lawsuits and letters to federal agencies and Congress challenging President Trump. The filing deadline is March 9. To date, AG Becerra will appear on the ballot with Democrat Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, retired El Dorado County Superior Court judge Steven Bailey, Republican attorney Eric Early, Republican victim rights’ lawyer Nina Salarno, and Peace and Freedom Party candidate and criminal defense attorney Adriane Bracciale. While still early, Commissioner Jones is the presumed contender for the second spot. At the California Democratic Party’s annual convention this past weekend, candidates for AG failed to reach the 60 percent threshold in the race along with candidates for U.S. Senate and governor. The final tally was 56 percent for Commissioner Jones and 42 percent for AG Becerra.[6]

June 26

Colorado Democratic Primary
(Open seat) In November 2017, first-term Republican AG Cynthia Coffman announced that she is running for governor. Even before AG Coffman’s formal announcement, Democratic opponents declared their intent to challenge her re-election. The filing deadline is March 20. To date, the four Democrats seeking the nomination are attorney Brad Levin, former state and federal prosecutor and Assistant AG Amy Padden, State Representative Joe Salazar, and the former Dean of Colorado University Law School and Obama Administration official Phil Weiser. Weiser is considered the strong front-runner with a solid fundraising advantage over his competitors. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s campaign reporting system, Weiser had $897,715 funds on hand at the end of the year. This is more than the other three candidates combined – Levin ($147,260), Padden ($92,130) and Salazar ($8,921). To date, only one Republican, 18th Judicial District Attorney and prosecutor of the Aurora theatre shooter, George Brauchler has filed with the Secretary of State. Interestingly, Brauchler originally intended to run for governor but changed course following AG Coffman’s announcement.

August 28

Florida Republican Primary
(Open seat) With two term Republican AG Pam Bondi term-limited, and a filing deadline of June 22, there are already four Republicans and two Democrats lined-up to replace her. Retired Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody, who has been endorsed by AG Pam Bondi, and attorney Frank White are considered the early Republican front-runners. Moody has put together a premier campaign finance team that includes top Trump lobbyist Brian Ballard, and White has the advantage of being self-funded. The two other Republicans running for the nomination are State Representatives Jay Fant and Ross Spano. Fant is self-funded and has received a great deal of media attention recently for his vocal support of the Second Amendment[7] in the wake of the Parkland high school shooting. On the Democratic side, State Representative Sean Shaw and attorney Ryan Torrens are the only two candidates to declare to date. Torrens is considered the early front-runner. With five months until the candidate filing deadline, there is a strong possibility that the ballot on both sides of the aisle could become even more crowded.



[1] The Missouri and West Virginia AG seats are not up for re-election until 2020. Republican AGs Josh Hawley (Missouri) and Patrick Morrisey (West Virginia) will remain AG if they are not elected to the U.S. Senate.

[2] Totals as of February 21, 2018 http://www.illinoissunshine.org/committees/raoul-for-illinois-18261/

[3] On February 16, 2018, an appellate Court ruled that Drury can remain on the March 20 ballot. Earlier this month, a Cook County judge ruled that his name could not appear on the ballot stemming from questions about a candidate economic disclosure statement. Drury appealed the case and a judge granted a stay allowing Drury’s name to remain on the ballot while the decision was appealed.

[4] Totals as of February 21, 2018 http://www.illinoissunshine.org/committees/34022/

[5] https://www.republicanags.com/2018/02/26/republican-attorneys-general-association-endorses-alabama-attorney-general-steve-marshall/

[6] http://www.cbs8.com/story/37586877/democratic-state-convention-delegates-decide-against-key-endorsements

[7] http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/374568-florida-ag-candidate-dont-let-school-shooting-take-away-our-right-to