Insights

Cozen Insight: 2019 AG Election Landscape

Kristina Howard & Emily Yu Apr 09, 2019

In comparison to 2018 in which there were 31 State Attorney General (AG) elections, 2019 is much quieter, with only three—Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  Despite the small number of AG elections, each is noteworthy and the outcomes have the potential to change the AG political landscape, currently comprised of 27 Democrats and 24 Republicans.

Kentucky and Mississippi have AG open seat races as Democratic AGs Andy Beshear and Jim Hood are running for governor.  Democrats will be looking to defend these seats to maintain these states’ long-standing tradition of electing moderate Democratic AGs in otherwise politically conservative states.  In Louisiana, Republican AG Jeff Landry has no opponent to date, although the filing deadline is August 8.  Despite media reports that he was going to run for governor, AG Landry has made clear that he is running for a second term as AG.  Speculation remains that he will pursue higher office in the future.

Kentucky – May 21 Primary
The candidate filing deadline passed on January 21.  Kentucky’s Republican AG primary field is notably youthful as Daniel Cameron, a former legal counsel to U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, and state Senator Wil Schroder, are both under 40.  Their age and backgrounds contrast starkly with the only Democratic candidate on the ballot, 67-year-old former AG and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.  Earlier this year, Republican state Senator Whitney Westerfield, who narrowly lost the 2015 AG election to AG Beshear, withdrew from the race.  With the primary six weeks away, many believe that Senator McConnell’s support is likely to be a decisive factor in the Republican Primary.  The winner will face a challenging general election to defeat Stumbo, who has both experience and history on his side—a Republican has not occupied the Kentucky AG’s office since 1948.

Mississippi – August 6 Primary
The candidate filing deadline passed on March 1.  The Republican primary field for AG is competitive.  Three candidates—state Representative Mark Baker, state Treasurer Lynn Fitch, and former state Republican Party Executive Director Andy Taggart—are vying for the Republican nomination on August 6.  If no candidate receives a majority of the vote (50% +1), the two top vote-getters proceed to a runoff election on August 27.  Of the Republican candidates, Representative Baker has been the most vocal in touting his conservative credentials.  He has promised to use the federal courts as a battleground to fight for conservative principles, expressed overwhelming support for a wall on the U.S.−Mexico border, and faulted sitting AG Hood for not challenging Obamacare’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion.  Taggart’s support for former Ohio Governor John Kasich in the 2016 Republican presidential primary and his work co-authoring two books with prominent Mississippi Democrats could earn him bi-partisan support in the general election but could hurt him with the conservative base in the primary.  Treasurer Fitch may have an advantage over her opponents because she has won two contested statewide Republican primaries and general elections.  A Mason-Dixon poll of likely Republican primary voters in February 2019 showed Treasurer Fitch leading Representative Baker 45% to 17%, with 38% of voters undecided (Taggart was not included in this poll).  Democrat Jennifer Riley-Collins, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Mississippi and a decorated former military intelligence officer, is the only candidate who has filed to run in the Democratic primary.

LouisianaOctober 12 Top-Two Primary; November 16 General Election
The candidate filing deadline looms several months away on August 8.  AG Landry is seeking re-election and so far has no opponent.  In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election.  If a candidate receives a majority of the vote (50% +1) in the primary election, he or she wins outright.  If no candidate reaches that threshold, a general election is held between the top two vote-getters approximately one month later.  Our “early” prediction is that this election will be decided in the primary on October 12.  AG Landry is a force to be reckoned with—a former U.S. Congressman, he is the current President of the National Association of Attorneys General and at the close of the February 2019 reporting period had $1.9M funds on hand.  Even given the likely uphill climb, however, some names have been floated as possible Democratic challengers, including House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger III, state Senator Eric LaFleur, and state Senator JP Morrell.

Please visit Cozen O’Connor’s State AG Tracker for the latest news on the AG elections in 2019. You can also sign up to receive real-time AG primary and general election results via text message and/or email.

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