United States: 2018 Elections – AG Results

Rob McKenna, Brian Moran, Adam Tabor, and Erica Sechrist in Orrick's Public Policy Practice Group assembled this breakdown of nationwide election results in state attorneys general races, providing a comprehensive look at potential shifts in these key offices that could impact policymaking in a number of states.

In 2018, 31 elected Attorneys General seats were on the ballot, including 30 states and the District of Columbia. Of those 31, 18 were held by Republicans and 13 by Democrats, going into the elections. As a result of the November 2018 election, four Republican-held seats were captured by Democrats. Democrats now hold 27 AG offices nationwide, and the Republicans hold 23.

Fifteen Closely Watched AG Races in 2018:

State Pre-election AG Party Post-election Party
Arizona Mark Brnovich GOP Mark Brnovich GOP
Colorado Cynthia Coffman* GOP Phil Weiser Dem.
Connecticut George Jepsen* Dem. William Tong Dem.
Delaware Matt Denn* Dem. Kathleen Jennings Dem.
Florida Pam Bondi* GOP Ashley Moody GOP
Georgia Chris Carr GOP Chris Carr GOP
Illinois Lisa Madigan* Dem. Kwame Raoul Dem.
Michigan Bill Schuette* GOP Dana Nessel Dem.
Minnesota Lori Swanson* Dem. Keith Ellison Dem.
Nevada Adam Laxalt* GOP Aaron Ford Dem.
New York Barbara Underwood * Dem. Letitia James Dem.
Ohio Mike DeWine* GOP Dave Yost GOP
Rhode Island Peter Kilmartin* Dem. Peter Neronha Dem.
South Dakota Marty Jackley* GOP Jason Ravnsborg GOP
Wisconsin Brad Schimel GOP Josh Kaul Dem.

*Indicates incumbent AG who did not seek re-election

Highlighted cells represent a change in party control

Toss-up Races Going into Election Night, with Results:

Arizona – Mark Brnovich (R)

Result: Incumbent Brnovich re-elected, 53.4% to 46.6%.

AG Brnovich's re-election was targeted by Tom Steyer, making this race a toss-up even though AG Brnovich appeared to have a comfortable lead (53%-49%) in late October. His opponent, January Contreras, emphasized her experience as a prosecutor and legal aid attorney while criticizing AG Brnovich for lawsuits his office filed relating to healthcare, mining rights, campaign finance, and sexual assault investigation procedures at public universities. AG Brnovich countered with examples of his office's successes in obtaining large settlements with companies such as Uber and Theranos, as well as successful criminal convictions. He also stressed his legal experience as both a criminal prosecutor and civil litigator.

Colorado – Open (Cynthia Coffman – (R) did not seek reelection)

Result: Democrat Phil Weiser elected, 49.7% to 47.5%.

Phil Weiser, former Dean of the University of Colorado Law School, to have narrowly defeated District Attorney George Brauchler, in AG-elect Weiser's first run for public office. Weiser decided to run for AG after President Trump's election in 2016, calling the state AGs an important check on the federal executive branch. He pledged to defend the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights. The race was seen as more competitive than the Governor's race but Weiser's fundraising advantage gave him an edge, as he outraised his opponent, $2.8 million to $744,000.

Florida – Open (Pam Bondi – (R) termed out)

Result: Republican Ashley Moody elected, 52% to 46%.

Judge Ashley Moody (R) defeated State Rep. Sean Shaw (D) to replace AG Pam Bondi in the Sunshine State. AG-elect Moody will continue the work carried out by AG Bondi over the last eight years. Moody ran on a strongly pro-life platform that also emphasized battling the opioid epidemic, protecting seniors from physical and financial abuse through a statewide task force, and working with the private-sector and business leaders to maintain a fair, competitive, and free marketplace in Florida.

Moody defeated Shaw 52.2% to 46%, with 1.8% going to independent candidate Jeffrey Marc Siskind.

Georgia – Chris Carr (R)

Result: Incumbent Carr re-elected, 51.5% to 48.4%.

AG Chris Carr successfully fended off a challenge from prosecutor Charlie Bailey (D) to win his first ever election. Carr beat Bailey with 51.5% of the vote compared to Bailey's 48.4%. Carr ran his campaign vowing to protect the U.S. Constitution and to fight federal overreach, human trafficking, elder abuse, and opioid abuse.

Maine – Open (Janet Mills – (D) elected Governor)

Result: Maine State Legislature will appoint next Attorney General.

Incumbent AG Janet Mills (D) was elected Governor, defeating Shawn Moody (R) by 50.3% to 43.8%, with 5.9% going to independent candidate Terry Hayes.

In December, the newly sworn in legislature will elect a new attorney general by secret ballot. Election results as of early November 7 show that in the Senate, 7 Democrats have won and 14 lead, while 1 Republican won and 13 lead. In the House, 35 Democrats won and 45 lead, 21 Republicans won and 37 lead, and 2 Independents won and 4 lead.

Two Democrats have publicly announced their bids to succeed Mills: State Senator Mark Dion, a former Cumberland County Sheriff who finished fifth in the gubernatorial primary, and Tim Shannon, who said in a statement that he'd be a "forward-looking advocate who will bring new energy to the job of protecting Maine people."

Other Democrats have been mentioned as potential candidates, including Maeghan Maloney, the District Attorney in Kennebec and Somerset counties, State Senator Mike Carpenter of Houlton, a former attorney general, and State Representative Aaron Frey of Bangor.

On the Republican side, lobbyist Josh Tardy, has said that he "would be interested" if his party won the majority, but it would be "a serious and difficult decision" because he likes his current job. State Senator Roger Katz of Augusta said he "may be interested."

Michigan – Open (Bill Schuette – (R) termed out, ran for Governor)

Result: Democrat Dana Nessel elected, 50% to 46%.

Former prosecutor and civil rights lawyer Dana Nessel (D) was elected over Michigan Speaker of the House Tom Leonard (R), a former assistant county prosecutor. AG-elect Nessel can be expected to focus on civil rights issues and criminal justice matters. She has also vowed a full review of the Flint water crisis. She is President of Fair Michigan Foundation, an anti-hate crime task force. Incumbent AG Bill Schuette lost his race for Michigan Governor to former State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Minnesota – Open (Lori Swanson – (D) did not seek reelection)

Result: Democrat Keith Ellison elected, 49% to 45%.

U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (D) defeated former State Representative Doug Wardlow (R)

49% to 45%, with 6% going to Noah Johnson, a Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate. AG-elect Ellison has said that he would approach the office as a tool to challenge certain Trump administration policies in court as other state attorneys general have done since President Trump's election.

Nevada – Open (Adam Laxalt – (R) did not seek reelection, ran for Governor)

Result: Democrat Aaron Ford elected, 47.2% to 46.8%.

State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D) beat former State Representative and Deputy AG Wes Duncan to become the first African-American AG to serve the state of Nevada. AG-elect Ford won the race with 47.23% of the vote compared to Duncan's 46.78%. Ford campaigned on shifting the AG office's focus to put Nevada families first.

Incumbent AG Adam Laxalt lost his bid for Governor to Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D).

Ohio – Open (Mike DeWine – (R) termed out, elected Governor)

Result: Republican Dave Yost elected, 53% to 47%.

Ohio's AG race featured Dave Yost (R), the State Auditor and longtime prosecutor versus Steve Dettelbach (D), a longtime Assistant United States Attorney in Maryland and Ohio, and former United States Attorney for Ohio's Northern District.

In the Governor's race, AG Mike DeWine (R) won out over former Ohio AG and CFPB head Richard Cordray, 51-46%.

Wisconsin – Brad Schimel (R)

Result: Challenger Democrat Josh Kaul elected, 49.5% to 48.7%.

Former prosecutor Josh Kaul (D) picked off incumbent AG Brad Schimel with a narrow margin of 49.54% to 48.68%. This was an incredibly important win for the Democratic AG Association as Schimel became the only incumbent AG to lose his office in 2018. Kaul has said he will focus on Wisconsin's opioid and meth crises, eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits to find justice for victims, and focus on consumer fraud and the preservation of the state's natural resources.

Safe Seats:

All of the following AGs were re-elected to or retained their offices:

Alabama – Steve Marshall (R); Arkansas – Leslie Rutledge (R); California – Xavier Becerra (D); Kansas – Derek Schmidt (R); Idaho – Lawrence Wasden (R); Iowa – Tom Miller (D); Maryland – Brian Frosh (D); Massachusetts – Maura Healey (D); Nebraska – Doug Peterson (R); New Mexico – Hector Balderas; North Dakota – Wayne Stenehjem (R); Oklahoma – Mike Hunter (R); Texas – Ken Paxton (R); Vermont – TJ Donovan (D); and the District of Columbia – Karl Racine (D).

New AGs were elected to open seats in the following states, without a change in party control:

Connecticut – William Tong (D); Delaware – Kathleen Jennings (D); Illinois – Kwame Raoul; Minnesota – Keith Ellison (D); New York – Letitia James (D); Rhode Island – Peter Neronha (D); South Dakota – Jason Ravnsborg (R).

Special Mention:

  • AG Josh Hawley (R) from Missouri prevailed against Senator Claire McCaskill to become the new junior senator from that state. Governor Parson will appoint AG Hawley's replacement, who will serve in that role until the next general election in 2020.
  • AG Patrick Morrisey (R) from West Virginia was not successful in his bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. He will continue to serve as AG of West Virginia.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Please join Orrick partner Jay Jurata at this year's Joint NGMN and ITU Conference on January 29-30 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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