Tagattorney general

Oklahoma governor appoints new state attorney general

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed John O’Connor (R) as the state’s attorney general on July 23. O’Connor was sworn in on the same day for a term expiring in 2023.

O’Connor succeeded former attorney general Mike Hunter (R), who resigned on June 1. Hunter had served as the attorney general since 2017.

O’Connor has worked as an attorney in private practice and served on the Board of Trustees of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa. Trump nominated O’Connor to a split seat on the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma on April 10, 2018. The U.S. Senate did not confirm O’Connor during the 115th Congress, and O’Connor withdrew his name from consideration for re-nomination by the next Congress on Apr. 12, 2019.

The Oklahoma Attorney General is an elected executive position in state government. The attorney general serves as the state’s chief legal officer and prosecutes violations of state law, represents the state in legal disputes and issues legal advice to state agencies and the legislature.

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Attorney General of Oklahoma

United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma 

Federal judges nominated by Donald Trump

Mike Hunter announces resignation as Oklahoma attorney general

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) announced on May 26 that he would be resigning effective June 1. Hunter cited “personal matters that are becoming public” as the reason for his resignation. The Oklahoman reported that Hunter allegedly had an affair with another state employee.

In a statement, Hunter said, “It has been a distinct and absolute privilege of a lifetime to serve as the state’s attorney general…I cannot allow a personal issue to overshadow the vital work the attorneys, agents, and support staff do on behalf of Oklahomans.”

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) appointed Hunter attorney general of Oklahoma in 2017 after former Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) was sworn in as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hunter was then elected to a full term in 2018. Before his appointment as attorney general, Hunter served as secretary of state of Oklahoma from 2016 to 2017 and from 1999 to 2002. Hunter began his political career by serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1984 to 1990.

The attorney general is an executive office in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, serving as the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the state government. The office is empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes, and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature.

The attorney general is an elected position in 43 states and the District of Columbia, including Oklahoma. However, when a vacancy occurs in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, the governor appoints a successor to serve until the next election. 

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Alaska legislature confirms Treg Taylor as attorney general

A joint session of the Alaska Legislature voted 35-24 to confirm Treg Taylor as the state’s attorney general on May 11. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Taylor as acting attorney general on Jan. 29 after Ed Sniffen resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Before Dunleavy appointed Taylor attorney general, Taylor served as deputy attorney general in charge of the civil division at the Alaska Department of Law. In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly.

The two previous attorneys general of Alaska both resigned due to allegations of misconduct. Kevin Clarkson resigned after an investigation revealed that he had sent inappropriate text messages to a junior employee. Sniffen resigned after a former member of a high school mock trial team coached by Sniffen alleged that she and Sniffen had a sexual relationship when she was 17 years old.

The attorney general is a state executive office in all 50 states and is the chief legal advisor for state government. Attorneys general are empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes, and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature. 

Nationwide, 26 states have Republican Party-affiliated attorneys general, and 24 states have Democratic Party-affiliated attorneys general. Virginia is the only state electing its attorney general this year. Thirty states will elect an attorney general in 2022.

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Virginia GOP nominates Jason Miyares for attorney general in statewide convention

Jason Miyares defeated Leslie Haley, Chuck Smith, and Jack White to win the Republican Party of Virginia’s nomination for state attorney general at the 2021 convention.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the 2021 Virginia Republican convention was an unassembled convention held across 39 satellite locations. Unlike previous conventions, there was no limit on how many delegates could cast votes, which were weighted according to the number of delegate votes allocated to each locality. Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a majority-vote winner. Over 53,000 people registered as delegates in 2021.

Miyares was announced as the winner of the attorney general convention on May 9, after three rounds of ranked-choice vote re-allocation. The final, weighted count showed Miyares with 51.7% of the vote to Smith’s 48.3%.

Miyares has served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016. His campaign platform included reducing the rate at which the Virginia Parole Board granted early release to violent offenders and punishing manufacturers and marketers who he said played a role in the opioid addiction epidemic.

The general election for Virginia attorney general will take place on November 2, 2021. The Democratic nominee will be decided in a primary on June 8. As of May 10, votes were still being counted for the Republican nominations for governor and lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) won re-election in 2017 with 53.4% of the vote to John Adams’ (R) 46.6%. The last Republican attorney general in Virginia was Ken Cuccinelli, who served from 2010 to 2014. Cuccinelli’s election in 2009, along with that year’s election of former Governor Bob McDonnell (R), was the last time a Republican candidate won statewide office in Virginia.

John Formella confirmed as New Hampshire attorney general

John Formella was confirmed as New Hampshire’s next attorney general by the Executive Council of New Hampshire on March 24 by a vote of 4 to 1. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) nominated Formella to the position on March 3. Formella has served as legal counsel in Gov. Sununu’s office since 2017. 

WMUR reported that Sununu congratulated Formella, saying “John’s work ethic is unmatched, and I have no doubt he will make an exceptional Attorney General and advance the best interests of Granite Staters. I look forward to working with him and the Department of Justice in the years ahead.”

Formella succeeds Gordon MacDonald, who left office earlier this year due to his nomination as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Deputy Attorney General Jane Young assumed the duties of the attorney general’s office when MacDonald stepped down. According to the governor’s office, Formella will take office after “an appropriate transition period.”

Prior to becoming legal counsel to Gov. Sununu, Formella worked for the New England law firm Pierce Atwood LLP. He was first hired as a summer associate in 2011 and was promoted to a full-time attorney in 2012.

The New Hampshire attorney general serves as head of the Department of Justice. The office’s primary responsibilities include acting as attorney for the state in criminal and civil cases in the supreme court, prosecuting crimes, enforcing the state’s criminal laws, and collecting unpaid debts to the state.

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Former N.H. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald sworn in as chief justice of state Supreme Court

Former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was sworn in to the New Hampshire Supreme Court on March 4. He was nominated by Gov. Chris Sununu (R) on Jan. 7 to succeed Robert Lynn, and the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 4-1 to confirm his nomination on Jan. 22. All four Republican members of the executive council voted to confirm. The only vote against confirmation was from Cinde Warmington (D).

The New Hampshire Executive Council is a five-member state executive board that oversees the state budget and approves gubernatorial appointments. Following the 2020 elections, the executive council switched from Democratic to Republican control. 

Gov. Sununu previously nominated MacDonald to succeed Robert Lynn as chief justice in June 2019, when the executive council was still under Democratic control. However, the council voted 3-2 along party lines to reject MacDonald’s nomination.

Robert Lynn was the chief justice of the Supreme Court from Feb. 6, 2018, until his retirement on Aug. 23, 2019. His seat on the court remained vacant until MacDonald joined the court.

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Sniffen resigns as acting Alaska attorney general

On Jan. 29, acting Alaska Attorney General Ed Sniffen announced his resignation and withdrew his name from consideration for attorney general due to an allegation of sexual misconduct. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) had appointed Sniffen as attorney general on Jan. 18, but he had not yet been confirmed by the Alaska Legislature. 

Nikki Dougherty White, a former member of a high school mock trial team coached by Sniffen, recently went public with an allegation that she and Sniffen had had a sexual relationship when she was 17 years old. At the request of the governor, the Alaska Department of Law has launched an investigation into possible criminal misconduct by Sniffen.

Sniffen is the second Alaska attorney general to resign in the past year due to allegations of misconduct. He took office in an acting capacity in August 2020 when his predecessor, Kevin Clarkson, resigned after an investigation revealed that he had sent hundreds of unwanted text messages to a junior employee.

Gov. Dunleavy has appointed Treg Taylor as Sniffen’s replacement. Prior to his appointment, Taylor served as deputy attorney general of the civil division at the Alaska Department of Law. He ran in an unsuccessful bid for the Anchorage Assembly in 2016. Taylor will serve in an acting capacity until he has been confirmed.

The attorney general of Alaska is the principal executive officer of the Alaska Department of Law. While the attorney general is an elected position in 43 states and the District of Columbia, it is appointed by the governor in five states, including Alaska. In Alaska, the governor’s nominee must be confirmed by a majority of the members of the legislature in a joint session.

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Michigan board approves circulation of recall petition against state attorney general

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on October 15 approved the petition language for a recall against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D). The board previously rejected five recall petitions against Nessel in 2020. Supporters of the recall effort need to submit 1,046,006 signatures within a 60-day period to require a recall election. The 60 days begin on the first day that signatures are collected. The recall petition must be submitted to the office of the Michigan Secretary of State no later than 180 days after it was approved by the board.

The recall petition was submitted by Chad Baase on September 25. Michigan laws state that the reason for recall must be deemed factual and clear by the Board of State Canvassers before the recall petition can be placed in circulation. The board does not document a rationale for their determination, only the judgment of rejected or approved.

The recall petition criticizes Nessel over her announced plans of ramping up efforts to enforce Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) Executive Order 2020-148. The executive order provided enhanced protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Baase has filed 12 recall petitions against four statewide officials. Five have been approved for circulation, five were rejected in clarity hearings, and two were withdrawn.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, four statewide officials in Michigan have seen recall petitions submitted against them. In total, 31 recall petitions have targeted the four officials. In comparison, Ballotpedia tracked no recall efforts against any Michigan statewide official in 2019.

This year, Whitmer has had 20 recall petitions submitted against her. Nine of those petitions have been approved for circulation, 10 efforts were rejected, and one effort was withdrawn by the petitioner. Two recall petitions have been introduced against Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D). One petition has been approved for circulation, and the other was rejected. Three recall petitions have also been introduced against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D). One effort has been approved for circulation, one effort was withdrawn by the petitioner, and the other was rejected.

Michigan is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 22-16 margin and the state House by a 58-51 margin with one vacancy. Whitmer was elected as Michigan’s governor in 2018 with 53.3% of the vote.

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