4 States Have Competitive Attorney General Races in 2016

In a hotly contested presidential election year, developments in the state attorney general races aren’t attracting much attention. But in four states, the contests are turning out to be competitive and surprisingly tricky to handicap.

In this rundown -- our first since October -- we have categorized three AG contests as tossups and one as lean Republican. Each is an open seat, and all feature wide-open primaries for at least one party, and in most cases both.

The three contests we’re currently rating as tossups are all held by Democrats: Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

The fourth competitive contest is the GOP-held seat in Indiana. With this handicapping, we’ve changed the rating from tossup to lean Republican, although the race is fluid enough to easily return to the tossup category later in the campaign season.

Beyond these four states, the other races for attorney general have actually become less competitive. We’ve shifted the GOP-held seat in Montana from likely Republican to safe Republican, and we’ve shifted the Democratic-held seat in Washington state from likely Democratic to safe Democratic. The contests in Oregon, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia remain safe for the incumbent party.

Meanwhile, we’ve removed from our list the three AG contests that were settled in November. The results in each state ended up leaving the incumbent party in control.

In Louisiana, the GOP held onto the post even though incumbent Buddy Caldwell lost to his Republican challenger Jeff Landry. Caldwell prevailed in the all-party primary but later lost to Landry by double digits in the all-GOP runoff. In Mississippi, Democrat Jim Hood held off a challenge by Republican Mike Hurst, winning by a double-digit margin. And in a close race in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear won an open-seat race against GOP state Sen. Whitney Westerfield. (Beshear is the son of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.)

As usual, we have categorized the races as safe Republican, likely Republican, lean Republican, tossup, lean Democratic, likely Democratic or safe Democratic. In the handicapping below, the seats are rank-ordered from most likely to go Republican to most likely to go Democratic.

Currently, the GOP holds 27 AG offices, with 23 for the Democrats. If the GOP can run the table -- holding the Indiana seat and flipping Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania -- its lead would jump to a dominating 30-20. But in the absence of a national partisan tide, the GOP stands to gain one or two seats. Democrats, by contrast, look likely to have a shot, at best, of making a net gain of one seat.

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