ICYMI: State Attorney General Races in the Spotlight

May 6, 2021

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison: “We must ensure we elect as many Democratic attorneys general as possibly to produce the change our nation needs.”

In case you missed it, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison’s role in the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd has led to a conversation about “redoubling the party’s investment in state attorney general races for years to come” according to CNN.

Here are the key excerpts from the article:

“Two words: Elections matter,” said Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, co-chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. “The benefit that Minnesota had was Keith Ellison, someone who was going to look at this from a justice lens, as an opportunity to move toward justice, to hold someone accountable who the jury … declared is the murderer of George Floyd.”

Ford was blunt when asked if Democrats hope Ellison’s role will mean large super PACs and other organizations will begin to fund attorney general races like they do other statewide contests.

“It’s imperative,” said the Nevada attorney general, who was elected in 2018.

“It’s going to be very important, frankly, for folks to understand that this is a team effort. … That it’s not just the governors, it’s not just the Congress persons, it’s not just the state legislatures, it’s also at attorneys general in these states who can affect very real change.”

Ellison, a one-time fixture in Washington as a congressman, stands as a stark example of that.

That win was consequential in the Chauvin verdict. Ellison, from the outset of the trial, signaled that he would coordinate the state’s case, adding a second-degree murder charge against Chauvin and directly working on the case with his legal team. The decision paid off and the Chauvin verdict, a rare case in which a police officer was convicted of murder, is seen as a win for the Democratic official.

It is impossible to know how the Chauvin case would have been handled without Ellison’s leadership. But the Floyd family and litany of attorneys who worked with them heralded Ellison’s work on the case, believing his leadership was key to getting a conviction.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, co-chair of the attorneys general group, admitted that national Democrats have not done enough to elect Democratic state attorneys general over the last decade.

“I don’t think adequate attention was paid,” Healey said. “I think that more attention could have been paid. I think hopefully it’s being paid now or will be paid now.”

Healey argued that Ellison was just the latest state attorney general to show the importance of the job, citing the litany of Democrats in those posts who helped thwart Republican efforts to circumvent voters during the 2020 election.

“Keith Ellison just demonstrated to everyone how important the office of attorney general is. And it’s another of a series of mile markers that should be showing national Democrats … how important this office is,” Rankin said. “The fact is that Keith Ellison was absolutely perfect in this role … the fact that he was the right person in the right role at the right time.”

Democrats like Ford and Healey hope the focus on Ellison means organizations like the Democratic National Committee, along with larger Democratic super PACs and outside groups, will invest in electing people like the former congressman. Healey said she was particularly hopeful because Vice President Kamala Harris formerly served as attorney general of California and Beau Biden, President Joe Biden’s late son, was attorney general of Delaware.

Jaime Harrison, the newly elected chair of the committee, also told CNN that the Chauvin verdict “shows exactly why Democrats should be in attorneys general offices across the country.”

“From the beginning, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison showed America that our justice system can and would hold bad actors within its ranks accountable,” Harrison said. “We must ensure we elect as many Democratic attorneys general as possible to produce the change our nation needs.”

AG Ellison is just the latest Democratic AG to show why it matters who your State Attorney General is. A prime example is the stark contrast between AG Ellison’s actions and those of Republican AG Daniel Cameron, who failed to hold Louisville police officers accountable for the killing of Breonna Taylor and has been accused of withholding information from the grand jury.

With more than 30 state AG races on the ballot in 2022, and Republican AGs doubling down on extremism, it is crucial that there be a strong investment in Democratic AGs. People deserve to have someone fighting for them, their family, and their community, and Democratic AGs have proven to be the People’s Lawyer time and time again.

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