Originally in the Greensboro News & Record
October 19, 2016

North Carolina voters will choose a new attorney general for the first time in 16 years. Josh Stein is an excellent choice.

A Democrat, Stein is a Harvard-educated lawyer who worked from 2001 to 2008 as a senior deputy attorney general for consumer protection. In that job, he targeted predatory lenders. From 2009 until earlier this year, he represented Wake County in the state Senate, winning praise from such groups as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the AARP of North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. Now an attorney in private practice, he’s active in community projects and co-chaired a $5 million capital campaign in Raleigh to build a domestic violence shelter for women and children.

Stein earned respect as an effective legislator who worked to improve education, public transportation and the environment. He also helped strengthen drunken-driving laws, expand the state’s DNA database and increase protections for domestic violence victims.

He is thoughtful, reasonable and well-prepared to meet the demands of running the state’s Department of Justice. Those include consumer protection, taking legal action against polluters and providing resources for law enforcement, as well as defending the state’s interests in court.

Republican candidate Eldon “Buck” Newton earned his law degree at Campbell University and practices in Wilson. He’s been a member of the state Senate since 2011, where he has led efforts to support law enforcement and the court system. He’s also active in his community.

Those are some of the good things. On the negative side, he supported Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill to impose a new City Council structure and election plan on Greensboro; was and remains a champion of House Bill 2, a discriminatory measure that resulted in severe economic harm to Greensboro; and led efforts to ban the use of the FaithAction International House ID card, which the city of Greensboro used to identify residents who lack other ID. Newton introduced another bill this year that would have barred even the Greensboro Police Department from recognizing this card, which it says helps improve relations with immigrant communities. That bill did not pass.

At a forum in Asheboro last month, Newton didn’t only criticize a federal appeals court for overturning voter restrictions enacted by North Carolina, which the judges said targeted black voters with almost “surgical precision.” He implied that those judges were trying to influence North Carolina’s elections. An attorney general should show more respect for the rule of law.

Newton faults current Attorney General Roy Cooper for refusing to defend some North Carolina laws challenged in court. He pledges to be more faithful. He raises a fair point. But Stein asserts that Newton backed 13 laws that have been overturned in court. Stein says that, as attorney general, he would advise the governor and legislature to avoid legal battles they are likely to lose. That would be a better approach for our state.