By Steve Arthur, Vice President
As my colleagues noted last week in their blog, the National Governors Association met in DC and it was more partisan than usual, especially at a press briefing at the White House after a meeting with the President. But as the Governors were wrapping up their meeting, the states’ Attorneys General were arriving for their own Winter meeting. Although, several of the arriving Attorneys General were hoping their official travel schedules will move them up a few days next year.
Five Attorneys General are running for Governor this year, and at least three others are running when their Governor’s Office comes up in 2015 or 2016. This reinforces the old joke that NAAG actually stands for National Association of Aspiring Governors. With six sitting Governors previously having served as their state’s Attorney General, there is good reason to look to the Attorneys General for possible future candidates.
This year’s sitting Attorneys General that are also candidates in Governors races include Doug Gansler (D-Maryland), Martha Coakley (D-Massachusetts), Jon Bruning (R-Nebraska), Gary King (D-New Mexico) and Greg Abbott (R-Texas). While being AG may provide an opportunity to run for Governor, it doesn’t clear the field. General Abbott faced only token opposition, but the rest of his AG colleagues are facing competitive primaries. And it may be for that reason that Jack Conway (D-Kentucky) has all but announced his run in 2015, and Roy Cooper (D-North Carolina) and Chris Koster (D-Missouri) have made it pretty clear they will be running for their state’s highest office in 2016.
Even with eight Attorneys General running for Governor, and most of their colleagues gearing up for re-election, the role of the Attorney General forces them to work together much more often than Governors. Issues such as monitoring the tobacco settlement, prosecuting Medicaid fraud and combating human trafficking keep the AGs and their offices in close touch. Even as they can disagree on some very big issues such as the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, they continue to work together on plenty of other issues.
The closeness of these relationships leads to moments that we see too infrequently with most other elected officials. The night before the NAAG meeting officially began both the Republican and Democratic Attorneys General Association held separate dinners. But later that night back at the hotel, Attorneys General and their staffs could be seen sitting at the same tables as their colleagues from the other party having the same sorts of casual conversations we all have with our friends at the end of the evening. Even the group of 2014 gubernatorial candidates was represented.
With hyper-partisanship continuing to rule Washington, D.C., the Attorneys General can serve as an example for other elected officials. Whether the office interactions make the social interactions easier or the social interaction makes working together professionally more tolerable, it is possible to disagree strongly on policy issues without it being personal.