Democrats on Defense in 2015-2016 Attorneys General Races

Observers often ignore attorneys general (AG) contests, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good races. At this point, it appears that almost half of the AG elections in the 2015-2016 cycle could be exciting.

While slightly more than half of the AG contests in 2015 and 2016 look solid for the incumbent party -- four of them currently held by Republicans and three by Democrats -- the other six are tossups. They include a Republican-held open seat in Indiana, along with Democratic-held open seats in Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and an embattled Democratic-held incumbent seat in Mississippi.

Democrats can take some comfort in the likelihood of a favorable turnout in 2016, but on the downside, the AG elections next year are in a tough mix of states, including the red-leaning battlegrounds of Missouri and North Carolina. In addition, each of the three contests taking place in 2015 are in difficult terrain for the Democrats -- Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi.

The Democrats have eight seats to defend during this cycle, five of which are tossups. By contrast, the GOP is defending just five seats, with just one tossup. Currently, the GOP holds 27 AG offices, with 23 for the Democrats. Republican wins in the Kentucky and Mississippi AG races in 2015 could boost the GOP lead to 29-21, with the possibility of three more gains in 2016, pushing the Republican edge to 32-18. Because the GOP has only one AG seat in significant jeopardy this cycle, the Democrats would be fortunate to keep what they have now.

Overall, there are 13 races in 2015-16 (the 2015 races are in italics). They are categorized as being either safe Republican, likely Republican, tossup, 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.

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