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Editorial: Take parties out of the AG race

Posted: February 1, 2014 - 1:27pm

In a few months, the state will be electing new occupants for our most important government positions. We can all agree that the Governor is the most prominent in the state and that the Lt. Governor is the most overrated. That has been shown by a decision to keep the office vacant following Mark Darr’s resignation.

But the most important may by the state Attorney General, the person who enforces our state laws and makes sure our legislature, our citizens and those outside interests who enter our state abide by the rules and regulations we set forth.

So why is the position party-based?

Rep. Nate Steel (D-Nashville) came by the Log Cabin Democrat offices recently during his campaign stops to discuss the position that he is vying for, and the more he spoke, the clearer it became that the job of attorney general, which requires an objectivity not seen in other offices, should be a nonpartisan office.

That’s not what is currently practiced. Not here, not anywhere ... well, except the U.S. territory of Guam. Not only is the position a partisan one in all 50 states, but it is popularly voted on in 43 states. In some areas, like Alaska and Hawaii, the job is appointed by the governor. In others, they are elected by the legislature or assigned by the state supreme court. But they all are party-affiliated.

Our system of two parties has worked for us in the legislative and executive branches for hundreds of years, and the activism it takes to enact certain state laws come from the platforms of those two major parties. So when state senators and representatives work toward legislation, they do so partly because of the views of the constituents who voted them into office, but also because of the views they personally hold, those views which brought them to the Republican or Democrat side in the first place.

When a Republican-led legislature passes a 12-week abortion ban, it is vetoed by a Democratic governor and overridden by that same right-leaning group. All politics is at play. But when it comes to the attorney general, that person must now defend a law he or she may personally disagree with. We couldn’t possibly see a legislator voting for or against something if they disagreed with it.

The current attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, is currently doing just that — arguing for the ban in court although his political position leans toward the pro-choice side.

So if the job is to interpret the laws, making sure wording is proper and correct on an amendment to legalize medical marijuana or going to court to protect laws voted on by the senators and representatives, shouldn’t that person be seen as objective the entire time they are vying for that office?

Maybe because it is such an important job that the only way to properly campaign is with the backing of one of the two state parties, but it seems that affiliation with these parties is the least important aspect when deciding who will be the state’s next lawyer.

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