Skip to main content

This year, 31 states will hold elections for attorney general. The post has always been important: As the state's top lawyer, the attorney general has a good deal of influence over a number of policy issues and is frequently a springboard to higher office. However, in recent years a number of attorney generals have made national headlines over how they handled their state's same sex marriage ban. With various office holders split largely (but not entirely) along party lines on whether they defend the existing bans or not, the job has become even more high profile and arguably even more vital than ever.

What follows is a guide to 2014's elections for attorney general. The above map by Stephen Wolf provides an overview of the year's races. Nine states have a Democratic incumbent running for re-election (or are very likely to), while five states have retiring Democrats. On the flipside, 13 Republicans are running for re-election, while four Republican incumbents are leaving office. This does not include states where the job is appointed (such as Maine and Tennessee). The Republicans had a good year in 2010, the last time most of these states held elections, when they picked up the AG slot in five states. Now the Democrats have the chance to return the favor, though Team Blue has its own vulnerabilities.

Head below the fold for a race-by-race look at this year's contests.

Alabama: Luther Strange (R)

First-term Republican incumbent Luther Strange is seeking a second term and should be heavily favored in this very red state. Democrats do have a credible candidate in state Rep. Joe Hubbard, the great-grandson of former Sen. Lister Hill. Strange's legal dispute with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians over a new casino has led the tribe to donate $250,000 to Hubbard, giving him a good amount of start-up money. Still, Strange retains a large cash-on-hand advantage and doesn't appear to have done anything to jeopardize his chances for re-election. Unless there's a major surprise, Strange should easily win here.

Arizona: Tom Horne (R)

On the other hand, Tom Horne has very much jeopardized his chances for re-election. Horne has been accused of illegally coordinating with outside groups during his 2010 election and was the subject of an FBI probe. Horne earned himself more bad headlines in 2013 when he pleaded no-contest to a hit-and-run in a parking garage. With Horne's case still unfolding, things don't look good for him.

Democrats have recruited 2010 nominee Felecia Rotellini, who lost to Horne by a relatively close 52-48. A March Public Policy Poll gave Rotellini a 42-36 lead over the incumbent. Horne also faces a primary challenge from former Department of Gambling Director Mark Brnovich. Horne is probably still favored over Brnovich in the August 26 primary but there's still time for more shoes to drop in his case. For now it looks like Rotellini gives Democrats one of their best chances at a pickup.

Arkansas: Open (D held)

Democrats have held this office since Reconstruction (some former state attorneys general include Gov. Mike Beebe, Sen. Mark Pryor, and Bill Clinton), but Republicans are making a play at this open seat. Three Republican lawyers are competing in the May 20 primary: Patricia Nation, who serves as a state party official; Leslie Rutledge, who was the RNC's attorney in a 2011 case; and David Sterling, who comes from the socially conservative wing of the party. As of the end of February Rutledge leads Sterling $124,000 to $107,000 in cash-on-hand, with Nation not reporting anything. If no one wins more than 50 percent in the primary, a runoff will be held June 10.

In recent years Arkansas has become increasingly hostile to down-ballot Democrats, but state Rep. Nate Steel gives the party a good candidate. Steel, a conservative Democrat who is unopposed in the primary, has proven to be an able fundraiser and is well connected. This race will be one of a few in Arkansas that tests whether Democrats can remain viable statewide or if the state will join its neighbors in completely rejecting its ancestral party.

California: Kamala Harris (D)

Harris won a very narrow 2010 victory, but she has entrenched herself in this Democratic state. This year the Republicans aren't putting up much of a challenge: The most viable Republican is former state Sen. Phillip Wyman, who has been out of office since 2002. Running as an independent is birther queen Orily Taitz. Harris is a rising star in the state party and there are a lot of questions about her future, but there are no real doubts about her 2014 prospects.

Colorado: Open (R held)

Termed-out Republican John Suthers' departure in this swing state has set up a very competitive battle for his seat. Two Republicans are running: House Minority Leader Mark Waller and Chief Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (who is also the wife of Rep. Mike Coffman). As of the end of 2013 Coffman led Waller $73,000 to $56,000 in cash-on-hand, and this should be a competitive battle until the June 24 primary.

The Democratic nominee will be Donald Quick, who served as District Attorney for Adams and Broomfield Counties. Quick is well funded with $156,000 on hand and he has the luxury of not needing to use it in a primary. Same sex marriage has emerged as a point of contention in the race: Quick says he will not defend Colorado's ban, while Waller and Coffman would. The general election here is likely to remain close until the end.

Connecticut George Jepsen (D)

There isn't much to see here. Jepsen is seeking a second term and should face no primary opposition. The only Republican running is Kie Westby, who ran a forgettable campaign for Senate in 2012.

Delaware: Beau Biden (D)

The incumbent, who is the son of Vice President Joe Biden, is running again and is not expected to face much opposition.

Florida: Pam Bondi (R)

Often cited as a rising star in this vital swing state, Bondi is seeking a second term. Two Democrats are competing to face her in the August 26 primary: former Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon, and House Minority Leader Perry Thurston. Bondi got some bad press in September when she delayed an execution to attend a fundraiser, but one thing she does not lack is money. Bondi and her allies' cash-on-hand totals easily dwarf both Democrats. A January PPP survey saw a tight race between Bondi and either opponent, but Bondi's massive financial edge should be a concern for Team Blue.

Georgia: Sam Olens (R)

Olens will face a challenge from former Democratic state Sen. Greg Hecht, whose last campaign was an unsuccessful 2006 run for the lieutenant governor nomination. While Georgia is trending blue, it remains a conservative state, and Olens should be the clear favorite in November.

Idaho: Lawrence Wasden (R)

Three-term incumbent Lawrence Wasden is running again, and it looks like he at least will need to fight for re-nomination. Wasden will face C.T. "Chris" Troupis in the May 20 primary; Troupis is attempting to channel anti-incumbent sentiment by arguing Wasden has been in office long enough. It remains to be seen how much of a threat Troupis will be to Wasden's chances. Given how red Idaho is, the winner should be the heavy favorite against Democrat Bruce Bistline in November.

Illinois: Lisa Madigan (D)

Madigan passed up a chance to run for governor this year, but her re-election is not in doubt.

Iowa: Tom Miller (D)

Longtime Attorney General Tom Miller has no major-party opposition for re-election.

Kansas: Derek Schmidt (R)

First elected in 2010, Derek Schmidt has not declared his intentions, but it would be a surprise if he doesn't run again. Currently there are no other credible candidates here, so Schmidt should have little trouble winning.

Maryland: Open (D held)

Three credible Democrats are facing off in the June 24 primary. Currently, Del. Jon Cardin (the nephew of Sen. Ben Cardin) looks like the frontrunner over Del. Aisha Braveboy and state Sen. Brian Frosh. Cardin and Frosh also lead Braveboy in the money race. However, with none of the candidates well known, it's hard to say for sure what will happen here.

Republicans haven't won this seat since 1918, and that streak looks set to continue this year. The only Republican running is Jeffrey Pritzker, who lost the 2002 primary.

Massachusetts Open (D held)

Attorney General Martha Coakley is giving up the seat in order to run for governor, and two Democrats are waging a competitive race to succeed her. In one corner is Maura Healey, a former assistant attorney general. Healey, who would be the nation's first openly gay attorney general, is best known for arguing the state's case against the Defense of Marriage Act.

In the other corner is former state Sen. Warren Tolman, who ran for governor in 2002. Tolman currently leads Healey $563,000 to $365,000 in cash-on-hand. The primary will be September 9. The Republicans are running lawyer and first-time candidate John Miller, who faces long odds in this very blue state.

Michigan Bill Schuette (R)

Schuette is seen as a likely candidate for governor in 2018 and probably starts out the favorite for re-election. Schuette's Democratic opponent is law professor Mark Totten, whose only prior run for office was a 2010 state Senate campaign. Schuette also began 2014 with a major cash-on-hand edge over Totten.  

However, recent events may make this election much more competitive. Schuette's office argued in favor of maintaining the state's ban on same sex marriage, and after the ban was struck down in late March, Schuette appealed the ruling. Totten is a supporter of marriage equality and abortion rights, and may benefit from the contrast with Schuette. An early April PPP poll gave Schuette a 36-33 lead and indicated neither candidate is very well known yet. For now the incumbent is still probably favored, but if Schuette's actions draw more attention to this race it could give Totten the chance to make up the fundraising deficit.

Minnesota: Lori Swanson (D)

Swanson is running again and currently faces no credible opposition.

Nebraska: Open (R held)

Republican Attorney General Jon Bruning made a last-minute decision to vacate the seat and run for governor, and four Republicans are trying to succeed him. In the race are Brian Buescher, who narrowly lost a 2009 run for Omaha City Council; Mike Hilgers, who ran an expensive and close campaign for state Senate against a Democratic incumbent in 2012; Doug Peterson, a first-time candidate backed by former Gov. Kay Orr; and state Sen. Pete Pirsch, the only elected official in the race.

The primary will be held May 13. The winner should be favored against either Democrat: self-described "conservative Democrat" Allan Eurek or Janet Stewart, who lost 70-30 when she ran for secretary of state in 2010.

Nevada: Open (D held)

Two members of well-known Nevada political families are running here. The Democratic candidate is Secretary of State Ross Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller. The Republicans have Adam Laxalt, the grandson of former Gov. and Sen. Paul Laxalt.

Miller, who is a likely candidate for governor in 2018, probably starts out with the advantage in this Democratic-leaning state. Miller has a reputation for being a good fundraiser while Laxalt is untested. Additionally, Laxalt only moved to Nevada from Washington, DC, in 2011. Still, Miller's win is not assured. A well-funded conservative group has already taken to the airwaves hitting Miller, and he has fired back. This is another race where same sex marriage divides the two candidates: Miller would not defend the state's ban, while Laxalt would.

New Mexico Open (D held)

Democratic Attorney General Gary King is seeking the governorship, and the sole Democrat running to succeed him is State Auditor Hector Balderas. The Republicans have a June 3 contest between former judge Susan Riedel and attorney Jim Baiamonte. Riedel is an old ally of Gov. Susana Martinez and should be favored for the nomination. Balderas should start out ahead in this Democratic-leaning state.

New York Eric Schneiderman (D)

First elected in 2010, Eric Schneiderman has made headlines both for his performance in office and his long-running feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Schneiderman is seeking another term and while Republicans believe he is potentially vulnerable, they have yet to field a candidate. One potential Republican is John Cahill, who served as chief-of-staff to former Gov. George Pataki.

North Dakota: Wayne Stenehjem (R)

First elected in 2000, Wayne Stenehjem is running again and has no intra-party opposition. The Democrats are running lawyer Kiara Kraus-Parr. It doesn't look like Stenehjem has worn out his welcome in this red state and should win another term without trouble.

Ohio: Mike DeWine (R)

Former Sen. Mike DeWine returned to office in 2010 and is running again. The Democratic candidate is former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper, who lost 50-45 in his 2010 race for state auditor. DeWine has been low key in office and should be favored for another term. However, the ongoing lawsuit over the state's same sex marriage ban could complicate things. Pepper supports overturning the ban while DeWine's office is arguing for it to stay in place.

Oklahoma: Scott Pruitt (R)

Pruitt declined to run for the Senate in order to seek another term, and it doesn't look like he has much to worry about here.

Rhode Island: Peter Kilmartin (D)

Kilmartin only won his first term in 2010 with 43 percent of the vote, but he should have an easier time this year. The Republicans are running Senate Minority Leader Dawson Hodgson, who has been a vocal critic of the state's loans to the now-defunct video game company 38 Studios. Kilmartin has largely avoided controversy, and that's usually enough to win re-election as a Democrat in a dark blue state.

South Carolina: Alan Wilson (R)

There isn't much to see here. Wilson's only major-party opponent is Parnell Diggs, who ran a forgettable campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 7th Congressional District in 2012.

South Dakota: Marty Jackley (R)

Jackley has little opposition for re-election here.

Texas: Open (R held)

Two Republican state legislators are competing in the May 27 runoff. State Sen. Ken Paxton is closer to the party's insurgent wing while state Rep. Dan Branch is seen as an establishment Republican. Paxton outpolled Branch 44-33 in the first round, and a runoff is more likely to attract anti-establishment voters. The winner will face awesomely named Democrat Sam Houston. Texas remains a very conservative state despite changing demographics, and either Republican would begin the general election as the frontrunner.

Utah: Sean Reyes (R)

Sean Reyes was appointed to his post at the end of 2013 after a scandal claimed his predecessor. Reyes is unopposed for re-nomination and faces Democrat Charles Stormont, who used to work in the attorney general's office. Republicans have long had a monopoly on statewide posts in Utah, and that's unlikely to change in 2014.

Vermont: Bill Sorrell (D)

Longtime incumbent Bill Sorrell had a scare in 2012, when he almost lost re-nomination to Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan. Things look much easier for Sorrell this time: Donovan is not running, and no credible candidates look like they plan to enter the race. Unlike in most other states, attorneys general in Vermont only serve two-year terms.  

Wisconsin: Open (R held)

Republican incumbent J.B. Van Hollen's retirement has set up a competitive race here. Three Democrats are running: Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ; Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne; and Milwaukee state Rep. Jon Richards. The only Republican running is Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, who boasts the largest war chest of any candidate. This is another race where the Democrats support overturning the state's same sex marriage ban while the Republican wants to keep it in place. With Wisconsin politics currently dominated by Republicans, Democrats would love a win here.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Sun Apr 13, 2014 at 01:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site