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State Attorneys General Are Shaping National Policy, One Lawsuit At A Time

(L to R) U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman look on as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum speaks at a press conference to announce a multi-state lawsuit to block the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form.
(L to R) U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman look on as Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum speaks at a press conference to announce a multi-state lawsuit to block the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form.

Picture a ballot.

There’s a place to pick the president, your representative, your senator — maybe mayor and governor, too.

But further down, there’s a list of possibilities for state attorney general.

Most states elect a new state AG every four years. But what exactly does the role entail?

Last month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, we spoke with a panel of state AGs about that very question. Here’s what Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (D) told us:

A lot of people think of us as the ‘top cop.’ Since I became attorney general, and maybe because I’m the first woman to be attorney general in Oregon, I gave myself a new moniker: I’m the mama bear. Looking out for my cubs, protecting my people, making sure that especially the most vulnerable in our communities are looked after. That is pretty much my mantra. And of course, taking care of our precious environment. I come from a beautiful state like many of you […] So we’re taking care of our resources. We’re taking care of our people. We’re looking out for harms. And we’re, of course, following the rule of law.

For many state attorneys general in the Trump era, the role is evolving.

Since the president took office in 2017, at least 47 lawsuits have been filed against him by states’ attorneys general — by AGs on both sides of the aisle. The objectives range from protecting the Affordable Care Act to restoring net neutrality to freezing the Muslim travel ban to preserving abortion rights.

Lawsuits like these have raised the profile of the job, but at what cost? Is there a limit to how politicized state attorneys general should be? Or is the role inherently political, by virtue of how state AGs are elected?

We air our conversation with attorneys general Ellen Rosenblum (D-OR), Mark Brnovich (R-AZ) and Phil Weiser (D-CO).

GUESTS

Ellen Rosenblum, State attorney general, Oregon (D); @ORDOJ

Mark Brnovich, State attorney general, Arizona (R); @GeneralBrnovich

Phil Weiser, State attorney general, Colorado (D); @pweiser

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

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