A Rough Night for Incumbent State Attorneys General

In most of the contests, the party in power is on its way out -- though that doesn't mean the national balance of power is flipping.
by , | November 7, 2012
 

For full election coverage and analysis, go to Governing's 2012 Election Center.

As the results rolled in on Election Night, incumbent state attorneys general -- for whatever reason -- were on thin ice.

Of the five races we categorized as competitive, two -- West Virginia and Pennsylvania -- resulted in losses for the incumbent party. In two of the other three states -- Montana and Washington state -- the party out of power was leading. In these five states, only the incumbent in Missouri retained his seat.

If current balloting holds, the results for elected positions were a wash. The partisan breakdown will remain unchanged. However, the scales could slip ever so slightly in the Democrats’ favor if the party seizes the Maine Legislature, which is currently held by the GOP. In Maine, the Legislature appoints the attorney general.

Prior to the election, the national balance for AG offices was exactly even: 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans.

In West Virginia, five-term Democratic incumbent Darrell McGraw -- a populist hero to some and a polarizing figure to others -- lost to little-known Republican Patrick Morrisey. The final result was Morrisey 51 percent, McGraw 49 percent. We had changed our rating late in the game from lean Democratic to tossup.

Meanwhile, in a Pennsylvania open-seat race that we rated lean Democratic, Kathleen Kane became the first elected Democratic AG in the state’s history. She defeated Republican David Freed, 56 percent to 42 percent.

The status quo was maintained in Missouri, where Democratic incumbent Chris Koster held off a challenge by Republican Ed Martin, 56 percent to 41 percent. We had rated that contest lean Democratic.

The two races that are still open are Montana, a Democratic-held open seat, and Washington, a Republican-held open seat. We had rated Montana lean Republican and Washington state lean Democratic.

In Montana, Republican Tim Fox was leading Democrat Pam Bucy, 53 percent to 46 percent, with about half vote counted. In Washington state, Democrat Bob Ferguson was leading Republican Reagan Dunn, 53 percent to 47 percent with about half the vote counted. If these leads hold in both states, the national balance for AG offices will remain unchanged.

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