2022 primary elections for attorneys general are in full swing with 31 state attorneys general elections to be held this November. While there will be at least nine new state attorneys general due to term limits or incumbents choosing not to seek another term, there is also a historically high number of contested primaries, including challenges to incumbents that have been fixtures in the office for many years.
In the past 10 days, highly contested Republican primaries have already resulted in:
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton clinching the party ticket by defeating George P. Bush, Texas land commissioner and son of former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush;
- Former Idaho Congressman Raúl Labrador defeating Lawrence Wasden, the state’s longest serving attorney general with 20 years as Idaho’s attorney general;
- Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr winning 73% of the vote, setting him up to face Georgia State Senator Jen Jordan (D) in the November general election;
- Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature Mike Hilgers receiving the Republican nomination, seeking to replace Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson (R), who is not running for a third term.
During the last two decades, state attorneys general have extended their influence nationally and are now viewed as much more than a state’s “top cop,” focusing solely on issues within state borders. In recent months, state attorneys general made news headlines by reaching record settlements with opioid distributors and manufacturers and a student loan servicer.
Understanding the potential the office holds to make a direct impact on their state’s citizens, as well as to affect changes to national policy through regulatory actions, many strong candidates have entered the 2022 races. This includes current members of Congress, former state attorneys general seeking to retake office, and other elected officials and noteworthy legal practitioners.
Also at play in this election cycle are challenges to incumbents from members of their own parties, leading to primaries in Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. While there are already 23 noteworthy primary contests, the following five upcoming attorney general primary races are especially interesting and deserve their own spotlights:
District of Columbia (June 21, 2022)
Democratic Attorney General Karl Racine is stepping down from the position after two terms, leaving an open seat in his wake. Racine has endorsed Brian Schwalb to be his successor out of the candidates in the June 21 primary. Schwalb is a trial attorney and partner-in-charge of law firm Venable’s Washington, DC office. He also spent four years as a Justice Department tax division trial attorney under President Bill Clinton. Racine and Schwalb share similar backgrounds. Before becoming D.C.’s first elected attorney general, Racine was Venable’s D.C. managing partner for six years and overlapped with Schwalb for nine years at that firm. Racine cited Schwalb’s diverse experience and campaign priorities of wage theft and youth upliftment as reasons driving his endorsement.
Bruce Spiva, the managing partner of law firm Perkin Coie’s D.C. office, is also in the running to be D.C.’s next attorney general. Spiva has an active political law practice, focusing on voting rights, and supports the push for D.C. statehood. D.C. native Ryan Jones, founder of Ryan L. Jones Law, which specializes in multidisciplinary litigation matters, is also on the ballot.
Kenyan McDuffie, a D.C. Council member representing Ward 5 and the chairperson of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, was disqualified from the race. The D.C. Board of Elections ruled that McDuffie did not meet the statutory requirements to run in the race because he has not been actively engaged in D.C. as an attorney, judge, or professor of law in D.C. The decision was affirmed by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
No Republicans have announced their candidacy, and most expect the Democratic primary will be dispositive in determining who will fill the shoes of Racine who has transformed the D.C. attorney general’s office during his tenure, increasing its capacity to handle major investigations and recently filing high-profile lawsuits against Facebook and Grubhub.
Maryland (June 28, 2022)
Two strong Democratic candidates are seeking to replace Democrat Attorney General Brian Frosh who made the decision not to run after his second term in office. Despite the fact the state has a Republican governor, Larry Hogan, the Democratic June 28 primary winner will likely be seen by most observers as a favorite to win in traditionally Democratic Maryland.
Candidates include Katie O’Malley, former city district court judge and ex-first lady of Maryland as the wife of former Governor Martin O’Malley, and Anthony Brown, U.S. representative for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District and former lieutenant governor under Governor O’Malley. With their proximity to the nation’s capital, these candidates will have the unique ability to impact matters of national concern.
Arizona (August 2, 2022)
Attorney General Mark Brnovich is constitutionally term-limited so this third term will be his last. He has instead launched his campaign for U.S. Senate. This has opened the door for candidates from both sides of the aisle to run for the attorney general seat in Arizona.
On the ballot in the Republican primary, scheduled for August 2, are: Andrew W. Gould who recently stepped down from the bench as an Arizona Supreme Court justice; Lacy Cooper, former section chief in the Border Security Section of the U.S. attorney’s office; Rodney Glassman, a private practitioner in Phoenix; Tiffany Shedd, a 2020 congressional candidate; Dawn Grove, vice president and corporate counsel for Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, the parent company of PING; and Abraham Hamadeh, an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.
When he departs his office, Brnovich will leave behind a legacy of a concerted focus on consumer protection issues. While attorney general, Brnovich’s office has secured more than $200 million in consumer restitution and relief.
Minnesota (August 9, 2022)
Five Republicans are vying for the opportunity to run against incumbent Democrat Attorney General Keith Ellison who was lead counsel in the successful prosecution stemming from George Floyd’s murder. The Republican challengers also have messaging focused on the unrest resulting from the death of George Floyd.
Candidates for the August 9 primary include Tad Jude, a recent Minnesota district court judge and a former member of the Minnesota Congress; Dennis Smith, former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives; Lynne Torgerson, a criminal defense attorney, specializing in the Second Amendment, particularly gun rights and expungements; Doug Wardlow, 2018 Republican attorney general nominee and a former Minnesota state representative; and Jim Schultz, a private practitioner.
Massachusetts (September 6, 2022)
Attorney General Maura Healey is retiring from her seat to run for governor of Massachusetts. Healey leaves big shoes to fill as a recognized leader in nationwide consumer protection investigations.
The Democratic candidates for the September 6 primary include Andrea Campbell, a former Boston city councilor who ran for mayor in 2021 and who also served as deputy legal counsel in Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. Campbell is known for championing police and criminal justice reforms. Also in the running are Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor attorney and former U.S. Senate candidate, and Quentin Palfrey, the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
On the Republican side, Jay McMahon entered the race this month, despite previously losing to Healey in the 2018 general election. McMahon has consistently made public safety a centerpiece of his campaign.
These hotly contested races reflect the fact that both major political parties have recognized the tremendous power that state attorneys general have to shape policy through enforcement actions. We will continue to monitor these races as the respective election days approach.
For up-to-date information on the 2022 state attorneys general elections, please visit our State Attorneys General Election Tracker.