Election Day this year saw races in 30 states and one in D.C. for attorney general, an increasingly relevant political position that holds enormous power over individuals and businesses alike. Tuesday’s elections resulted in 13 newcomers to the job, although not much change in the balance of power of Republicans to Democrats in each state. Regardless of affiliation, they are all elected politicians with subpoena power. Many will be looking to establish themselves as a national voice on the substantial range of issues that attorneys general have historically engaged on, and a host of emerging issues like election fraud claims and enforcement of abortion laws.
Attorneys general are elected in all but a handful of states, and the GOP maintains an advantage of 27 to 24, including the District of Columbia. The Republicans have bolstered their advantage with a pickup in Iowa with the election of GOP candidate Brenna Bird, who campaigned on suing the Biden administration over policies that clash with Republican priorities. She beat long-time incumbent Tom Miller, the Iowa Democrat who held the position in a traditionally conservative state for 38 years, making him the longest-serving state attorney general in U.S. history. Although currently too close to call, the red-and-blue balance will stay the same if Democrat Kris Mayes beats Republican Abe Hamadeh in Arizona.
State attorneys general have been a rising national force in recent years, catching voters’ attention with headline-making litigation and multistate investigations focused on everything from consumer protection to criminal justice to health care laws. Formerly soliciting a very lawyerly type in past generations, the current-day attorney general is much more of a political creature.
The partisan split matters in terms of what priorities a GOP attorney general may have versus a Democratic one, especially when considering that they now tend to hunt in proverbial packs. The number of lawsuits or investigations brought by multiple state attorneys generally has spiked in the past decade, with coalitions of dozens focused on both policy and political goals. A Republican attorney general may focus on investigating environmental, social and governance practices in the banking industry while a Democrat may be more likely to litigate climate issues. Big Tech and consumer finance remain popular targets regardless of party. These cases can last for years and cost millions to billions of dollars, which is why they tend to end in settlements from companies hoping to avoid the steep costs of going to court.
We have hints on what all these new state attorneys general want to get done while in office, but nothing is guaranteed. Businesses, especially those in industries repeatedly known to be targets of government investigations, should get to know them quickly and have a good understanding of how these new AG’s, and the partisan balance amongst them, impacts their industry.
Read the full analysis here, including state-by-state results, the current balance of power and a list of newcomers.
This document is intended to provide you with general information regarding 2022 election results for state attorneys general. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about the contents of this document or if you need legal advice as to an issue, please contact the attorneys listed or your regular Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP attorney. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions. The information in this article is accurate as of the publication date. Because the law in this area is changing rapidly, and insights are not automatically updated, continued accuracy cannot be guaranteed.