2010 State AG Elections: GOP Shift Continues

Since our last rating in August, four more state attorney general contests are favoring Republicans.
by | October 12, 2010

Check out the updated attorney general race ratings here.

The battle to control state attorney general offices is continuing to shift in the Republican direction, but the movement since Governing's last rating in late August has been modest.

This represents the second of three efforts this year to handicap the 30 states that have attorney general elections this fall. With this analysis, we're moving four contests toward the Republican candidate, while shifting two contests in the Democratic direction.

Currently, the Democrats hold a 32-to-18 edge in AG offices. Of these 50 positions, 43 are popularly elected, with the remaining seven appointed by a governor, the Legislature or the state Supreme Court.

Of the 43 elected seats, the Democrats currently control 27 to the Republicans' 16. And of those 43, a total of 30 are being contested this fall, of which the Democrats currently hold 19.

Based on interviews with dozens of partisan and nonpartisan sources, the Democrats are poised to lose between six and 13 attorney general posts on Election Day. If they suffer a net loss of just six seats, the Democrats would hold on to their now-solid majority, though by just a single seat. But if the Democrats were to lose a net 13 seats, they'd see the GOP take the lead by roughly the same 3-to-2 margin they currently enjoy.

The four states moving toward the GOP in this analysis are Colorado, which shifts from lean Republican to likely Republican; Massachusetts, which shifts from safe Democratic to lean Democratic; New York, which shifts from likely Democratic to lean Democratic; and Oklahoma, which shifts from likely Republican to safe Republican.

The two states that are shifting toward the Democrats are New Mexico, where the Democratic incumbent is holding back the GOP tide, and California, where the seat still remains favorable to the GOP. We're switching New Mexico from tossup to lean Democratic and California from likely Republican to lean Republican.

All told, this means that 12 of 19 Democratic-held attorney general positions that are popularly elected are "in play" this year -- that is, either classified as a tossup, lean Democratic or lean Republican. An additional Democratic-held seat, in Oklahoma, is already all but lost to the GOP. Just six Democratic-held elected seats are almost certain to remain in the party's control after Election Day.

In addition to Oklahoma, Democrats are on the defensive in several states where Republicans are riding high this year. They include Arizona, the home of a controversial bill to crack down on illegal immigration signed by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer; California, where a San Francisco district attorney may be too liberal for voters; and the solidly Republican states of Georgia and Kansas.

Democratic-held tossup states include Iowa, where a longtime incumbent is facing the fight of his political life against an upstart conservative; strongly Republican Kansas; and Ohio, where the Democratic incumbent may have trouble with voters feeling fatigued with the current Democratic administration.

By contrast, only one GOP-held elected attorney general position is currently in play -- Florida's. The other 10 GOP-held seats do not appear to be at serious risk for now.

Probably the most salient ratings switches in the current analysis are those in Massachusetts and New York. Both are historically strong Democratic states, but the shifts have put both AG seats "in play." In Massachusetts, that's because a previously vacant Republican ballot line has been filled by a write-in candidate. In New York, it's due to uncertainty over a possible GOP surge in the state, though the Empire State remains volatile and difficult to gauge.

Looking ahead to our final handicapping before Election Day, we see five states that could potentially experience movement in the GOP's direction: Florida and Kansas, from tossup to lean Republican; Arizona, from lean Republican to likely Republican; and Alabama and South Carolina, from likely Republican to safe Republican.

For thumbnail sketches of the 30 attorney general seats up for grabs this fall, visit our interactive map.

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