The position of state attorney general has a lot of influence on policies related to crime, justice, opioids, consumer protection, privacy, gun control, and immigration. It has become even more important in recent years, with many state attorneys general using the position to take on high-profile federal policies. With 30 seats up for election this year, voters had a chance to weigh in on these measures. Democrats flipped four seats, and now have a majority in the nation with 26 state attorneys general to 23 Republicans, and one independent appointment in Alaska. There are seven attorneys general that are not popularly elected.
Attorney general seats that flipped to Democratic control
Colorado Democrats had a big night on Tuesday, keeping the governorship, flipping the state senate, and winning the state attorney general race. University of Colorado law dean Phil Weiser won a close race with district attorney George Brauchler, who was known for prosecuting the Aurora mass shooting. Weiser clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and served as an adviser in the U.S. Department of Justice, working in the Antitrust Division under President Bill Clinton. Weiser has promised to sue pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, advocated for criminal justice reform, and vows to fight the Trump administration on immigration.
Michigan elected its first openly gay statewide official, choosing attorney Dana Lessel over state House Speaker Tom Leonard. Nessel was the plaintiff’s attorney for the case to legalize same-sex marriage that was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nessel was also an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and was very critical of how former Attorney General Bill Schuette handled the Flint water crisis. She has called for criminal justice reform and supported a measure legalizing recreational marijuana legalization that passed on Tuesday.
Nevada Senate Democratic Leader Aaron Ford defeated Deputy Attorney General Wes Duncan, becoming one of four African-American attorney general candidates to win on Tuesday. Ford is a former teacher who became a lawyer and first won a seat in the state legislature in 2012. Ford promises to enforce Question 1, a statewide background check measure on guns that voters approved in 2016 but was not implemented by former Attorney General Adam Laxalt. During the campaign, he touted his work on criminal justice reform and combating sexual harassment in the workplace.
Wisconsin results are still not final, but Democrat Josh Kaul has claimed victory with a lead of 22,000 votes. The former federal prosecutor defeated incumbent Brad Schimel. Kaul is the son of former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. He has vowed to withdraw the state from its legal challenge of the Affordable Care Act, and would push for more gun control laws, including universal background checks, a ban on bump stocks, and a "red flag" law that would allow authorities to seize firearms from people who pose a risk.