Attorney General race: State Sen. Josh Stein (D) vs. State Sen. Buck Newton (R)

The joke is that “AG” stands for “Aspiring Governor.” For that reason, this is a race to be watched closely, as being elected Attorney General is often a steppingstone to the governorship. The candidates for this contest offer a sharp contrast and a battle between old and new North Carolina.

First, some background: Roy Cooper is leaving office after four terms. So formidable was Cooper as a candidate that he went unchallenged back in 2012. Thus, this is an open seat race and for Republicans an opportunity to take back an office they haven’t won since the 19th century.

The Democratic nominee is Josh Stein, a State Senator who represents Raleigh and Cary. In the Senate, Stein compiled a reliably liberal voting record but has moved to the center for the campaign. Stein is the candidate of New North Carolina, urban and progressive.

Representing Old North Carolina is the Republican nominee, State Senator Buck Newton of Wilson, whose district is in the eastern part of the state. Newton is a reliable social conservative, an advocate of HB 2, and ready to sue the federal government at the drop of a hat if he perceives them as trampling on the constitutional rights of Tar Heels.

So, who has the edge here? The race should be tight, but right now things seem to be leaning Stein’s way. Like most Democrats running for Council of State, Stein should be able to depend on a number of rural voters who consistently split their tickets. Strange though it may seem, there will be more than a few Trump/Stein voters.

Secondly, Stein has a big advantage in one very important aspect of any campaign: money. Stein has been a very successful fundraiser and on that front is blowing Newton out of the water. Newton doesn’t have to match Stein in amount of money raised, but right now the financial disparity is a bit worrisome.

One red flag for Stein: his primary victory over Marcus Williams was a narrow one, 53-47, possibly a result of Stein saving up money for the general election. A less benign possibility is that voters resisted the candidate due to his recognizably Jewish last name. While the latter scenario is less likely, it’s possible Stein will turn out to be a weaker candidate than many have presumed. A similar underperformance in November will mean an Attorney General Buck Newton.

Polls show the race very tight. The latest PPP poll shows Stein leading Newton 39%-38%. While this is an encouraging result for Newton, this isn’t a pure toss-up race. It tilts, ever so slightly, to Stein – mostly due to the financial disparity between the candidates.

Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

2012 Result
100.0% Cooper

Voter Registration
40.3% Democratic
30.5% Republican
28.7% Unaffiliated

70.3% White
22.3% Black
7.4% Other

Results in Other Elections

2014 Senate
48.8% Tillis
47.3% Hagan

2012 President
50.4% Romney
48.4% Obama

2012 Governor

54.6% McCrory
43.2% Dalton

2010 Senate
54.8% Burr
43.1% Marshall

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