Last week’s state attorney general races brought little change on the surface, but change in Washington significantly increases the risk of enforcement and litigation by the states. If it seems counterintuitive, it is. But this Washington changeover heightens the complexity of the relationship between Washington and state capitols.
State attorneys general wear two hats. On the one hand they are typically their state’s chief law enforcement and legal officer. On the other hand, they are a statewide elected official. Thus, a pairing of legal and political. They also may well be the most powerful officials in our government because there are few checks on their authority to investigate and litigate. A governor may sign laws only after legislatures enact them, and legislatures are rarely monolithic. But, an attorney general can file a complaint or issue a subpoena with the stroke of their pen.