In this post, we build upon the electoral analysis provided in an earlier blog posted on February 10, 2022, entitled “New AGs Take the Reins in Key States with Largest AG Election Cycle in Years on the Horizon.” You can access that post, which provides interim developments on attorney general appointments in North Dakota and New Jersey and the upcoming election cycle, here.
The 2022 election cycle is well underway, with many primary elections having taken place over the past few months. While Congressional and gubernatorial elections have always been of high interest to the public, state attorney general (AG) elections are garnering more attention than ever.
In their roles as the chief legal officers of their jurisdictions, AGs are uniquely situated at the cross-section of law, politics, and public policy. While each state assigns different powers and duties to its AG, AGs work individually and together to confront a wide variety of issues that impact businesses from every industry sector. Additionally, the AG role has continued to expand over time as new issues arise and new technologies emerge. For example, AGs have taken an increasingly active role in the oversight of data privacy laws in an effort to protect consumers.
Most significantly, AGs have been put in the spotlight in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and their overturning of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. AGs across the political spectrum have announced their stances on the reversal of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, as previously established in Roe. In more progressive states, some AGs have been making assurances that abortions are still legal in their states or have committed to not enforcing laws restricting abortion. Conversely, in more conservative states, some AGs have framed the decision as an historic victory. States where the stance of the AG conflicts with current and likely state law on abortion inevitably will experience increased attention in the coming days and weeks.
More than 30 AG seats may change as a result of the 2022 cycle. Below are highlights of recent events impacting AGs in advance of election day on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
What state AG seats are up in 2022?
Over half of the state AG seats are up for election this year. Twenty-two of those seats are currently held by incumbents, eight are open seats, and six are in states where the AGs are not elected, but the new AG may change.
Recent happenings: AG primaries in D.C., Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma; new interim AG appointed in South Dakota after removal of sitting AG from office; and Vermont AG resigns
On Tuesday, June 21, the District of Columbia held a number of primary elections, including for AG. Brian Schwalb won the Democratic primary nomination with 45.6 percent of the vote and the support of six out of eight wards. At this time, Schwalb does not have any challengers in the general election.
Republican incumbent Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden lost his primary on May 17, 2022. AG Wasden was defeated by former Idaho and U.S. Congressman Raúl Labrador by over 13 points. Congressman Labrador, who is a former chair of the Idaho Republican Party, will face Democrat Steven Scanlin.
In Nebraska, incumbent Republican AG Doug Peterson announced that he would not run for reelection. Primary elections for AG were held on May 10, 2022. Mike Hilgers, the speaker of the Nebraska legislature, won the Republican primary and no Democratic primary was held. Speaker Hilgers will face off against Larry Bolinger, who is running on behalf of the Legal Marijuana NOW Party.
New Mexico held its 2022 primaries, including one for the Democratic nominee for AG, on June 7, 2022. Raul Torrez, who currently serves as the Bernalillo county district attorney, secured the Democratic nomination. Torrez will face Republican Jeremy Gay, who is a litigator and Marine, in the general election for New Mexico AG.
On Tuesday 28, 2022, incumbent Republican Oklahoma AG John O’Connor was defeated by challenger Gentner Drummond by a slim margin. AG O’Connor was appointed by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt last year and had never run for statewide office before. If a recount yields the same results, Drummond will be the next AG of Oklahoma, as no Democrats filed to run in the 2022 AG election.
Last week, the South Dakota Senate removed South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg from office. AG Ravnsborg is the first statewide official in South Dakota to be impeached, removed from office, and barred from holding a future office in the state. AG Ravnsborg will be replaced for the next full four-year term by Republican Marty Jackley. Jackley won his nomination at the South Dakota State GOP primary last week and will run uncontested in the general election. However, Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem appointed Pennington County’s state attorney, Mark Vargo, as AG Ravnsborg’s interim replacement. Vargo, who was the lead prosecutor in the South Dakota Senate’s impeachment of AG Ravnsborg, will serve until Jackley is sworn in for the next term.
Finally, Vermont AG T.J. Donovan announced that he would not seek reelection. He left office on June 20, 2022. AG Donovan announced that Chief Deputy AG Joshua Diamond will assume the duties of AG and will fill that role until Vermont Governor Phil Scott appoints Susanne Young to fill out Donovan’s six-month term. Young is a 40-year veteran in state government and is a former deputy AG. Most recently, she served as Governor Scott’s administration secretary.
Our Attorney General Team will continue to report on things as they change leading up to the general elections, which will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.