Obamacare a central issue in state attorney general races
For years, congressional Republicans vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
In a case sending shock waves through midterm election campaigns, Republican attorneys general across the country might be poised to make good on that promise.
The case, Texas v. United States, reveals how high the stakes are for health care in this year’s attorney general races – elections that rarely receive much attention but have the power to reverberate through the lives of Americans.
“It just shows that nothing is safe,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who leads 16 states and the District of Columbia in defending Obamacare.
Both political parties expect record-breaking fundraising for the 30 contested elections for state attorneys general this year. Democrats aim to translate narrow public support for the Affordable Care Act – a Fox News poll last month showed 51 percent of Americans viewed the health care law favorably – into the votes needed to seize a handful of posts held by Republicans.
This will be the first major election since Republicans voted to abandon a deal they brokered with Democrats roughly two decades ago not to challenge each other’s incumbents in attorney general races. That gentlemen’s agreement acknowledged the need for attorneys general from both parties to collaborate on investigations and lawsuits.
But some of the partisan forces that embittered Capitol Hill spread to these contests. While Republicans control the executive and legislative branches – and are close to staking their claim on the Supreme Court – Democratic attorneys general see themselves as a check on the Trump administration. (Similarly, their Republican counterparts frequently took the Obama administration to court.)
Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of California State University’s Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs in Los Angeles, compared the politics invigorating state attorneys general to a bar brawl.
“Two people have a fight, and then it spills out into the street, and 20 people join in,” he said. “Everybody gets off the bench and joins the fight.”
Democratic attorneys general challenged the Trump administration on its threats against so-called sanctuary cities that shelter undocumented immigrants and its policy of separating families caught trying to illegally cross the border. A banner on the website of the Democratic Attorneys General Association captures their mindset: “This office has never been more important.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed six attorney general candidates, including in Ohio and Wisconsin, and the association plans to raise a record-breaking $15 million for November’s elections, said Lizzie Ulmer, a spokeswoman for the group.
The Republican Attorneys General Association, meanwhile, raised $26.6 million by mid-June, extending its own record.