Democrats say they're 'well positioned' for November's AG races

Chris Rizo Sep. 17, 2008, 2:52pm

SAVANNAH, Ga. (Legal Newsline)-Democrats say they are "well positioned" for attorneys general races in November, having what they call strong candidates.

Joe Eyer, senior political adviser to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, told Legal Newsline earlier this week that even with a strong field of candidates, DAGA is taking nothing for granted this election.

"Democratic candidates and incumbents are very well positioned this year. DAGA is supporting strong new candidates in seven key states, including Indiana, Montana and Missouri," said Eyer, a strategist with the Dewey Square Group, a leading Democratic political firm.

He added, "But we're not taking anything for granted."

DAGA, which is holding a fundraising meeting this weekend in Savannah, Ga., is also "proud to support veterans like Roy Cooper (of North Carolina), Bill Sorrell (of Vermont), and Darrell McGraw (of West Virginia)," Eyer said.

In Oregon, he noted that John Kroger, the Democratic candidate vying to replace retiring Democratic Attorney General Hardy Myers, has no Republican challenger.

"Republicans were unable to even field a candidate to challenge Democrat John Kroger," said Eyer, who managed 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's campaign in the Beaver State.

Oregon State University political science Professor Bill Lunch said the fact that there was not a Republican candidate for AG says something about both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The "peculiarity" that there isn't a Republican running, he said, is a function in part of the low pay for the position relative to what a supervising attorney in private practice earns.

At $77,200, Myers is the second lowest paid attorney general in the nation.

Also, Democrats have numbers on their side, Lunch said.

"The Republicans are weak in Oregon, and they are getting weaker if you look at the voter registration numbers," he said. "If you're an ambitious politician on the Republican side and you look at a contest like this where you are likely to lose, it isn't terribly appealing."

Despite the lack of a Republican candidate, Kroger could get an unusual challenge from the Constitution Party if its nominee makes the race about party affiliation and is able to tap into Republican angst over not having one of their own to support.

"It is not inconceivable to me that you could have some significant fraction of Republican voters voting for the guy from the Constitution Party, but that is based on the assumption that those folks at the minor party would have enough money to make that kind of appeal, and I don't see any evidence of that," Lunch said.

Nationally, voter turnout in November is expected to be higher than in past presidential election cycles.

After all, following a protracted Democratic primary, Democrats are widely enthusiastic of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, and Republicans were recently energized with the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket as Arizona Sen. John McCain's running mate.

But because the presidential candidates are attracting so much attention, candidates in down-ballot races, such as for state attorney general, are being eclipsed, a leading political analyst told Legal Newsline.

"The presidential campaign takes so much of the media light that the other campaigns can operate in a black hole; they are not getting much attention," said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, director of the university's Center for Politics.

He added that AG races will likely be affected by up-ballot races, noting that McCain and Obama will take some states by a landslide, and that could affect the outcomes in some AG races.

"Generally, this is a good year for Democrats, but it depends if you are in a red or blue state," Sabato said. "But what is true nationally is less important to what is actually true in any individual state."

Thad Beyle, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said although state AG offices are not the sleepy agencies they once were, media coverage of the office is still limited.

Many voters don't realize that attorneys general are "actively involved in a range of activities" and have a bevy of duties and responsibilities from consumer protection, to in some states, securities oversight and criminal jurisdiction.

"It has risen to become a more important office," Beyle said.
In many states, he said, races for attorney general have taken a backseat to contests for U.S. Senate and governor.

"A good part of this is the fact that the media is cutting back on its coverage," he said, "so it's a little harder for people to know what's going on" in races for attorney general.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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