Originally in The Avery Journal

By Matt Debnam, February 10, 2016

As the chief law officer of the State of North Carolina, the Attorney General’s role in state government is tremendously important. Charged with representing all state agencies in legal matters, providing legal opinions to the governor and General Assembly and handling all criminal appeals from state trial courts, the office holds tremendous influence.

The Attorney General also serves as the administrative head of the North Carolina Department of Justice, which works to protect North Carolina consumers, provides training and standards for law enforcement and assists law enforcement in fighting crime and prosecuting cases.

The NCDOJ also houses the North Carolina Justice Academy and the State Crime Laboratory. While the former provides specialized training for law enforcement officers throughout the state, the latter helps those same officers solve crimes by providing analysis of evidence in criminal cases. The office provides assistance for victims of scams, identity theft, domestic violence and crime in general.

Articles are available on the NCDOJ website which offer advice for North Carolina citizens on ways they can protect themselves and loved ones from falling victim to criminal elements. The department’s Consumer Protection Division processes more than 20,000 complaints each year filed by citizens against businesses. If the NCDOJ discovers a pattern of illegal or unscrupulous practices, it can take legal action against a business on behalf of North Carolina consumers.

With sitting Attorney General Roy Cooper gearing up for a run on the governor’s office, four candidates have filed to run for his vacated office. Democratic and Republican voters will both have options going into the primary, as two candidates have filed from each party.

Josh Stein (D)

A four-term NC Senator from NC Senatorial District 16, Josh Stein was first elected to serve in that capacity in 2008. Prior to holding office, Stein served as the Senior Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Protection from 2001 until his election in 2008. He holds a law degree from Harvard University and is currently employed at the law firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood in Raleigh. Stein worked as a campaign manager and deputy chief of staff for Senator John Edwards from 1997 to 2000. He has also worked as a teacher, real estate project manager and development director.

Marcus W. Williams (D)

A native of Lumberton, Marcus Williams has been practicing law since 1978. Since then, he has spent a large portion of his legal career providing services in the southeastern region of the state. In 1992, Williams ran in the primaries as a Democratic candidate for governor of North Carolina, losing to Jim Hunt. In 2012 Williams was defeated by Democratic incumbent Larry Kissell in a bid for the 8th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2014, he ran for NC Senate in District 13 and was defeated by Jane W. Smith in the primaries. Williams currently runs an independent law firm in Lumberton, holding a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.

E.S “Buck” Newton (R)

Buck Newton currently serves as the NC Senator from District 11, representing Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties. He was first elected to that office in 2010, defeating five-term Democratic incumbent A.B. Swindell. A graduate of Campbell School of Law, Newton has practiced law at his firm, Newton and Lee, in Wilson for the past 16 years. Newton has previously served as Chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party as well as serving as an aide to Senator Jesse Helms on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Jim O’Neill (R)

Jim O’Neill was appointed as Forsyth County District Attorney in November 2009 and is currently serving as Forsyth County’s elected District Attorney. Prior to his appointment, he served as an Assistant District Attorney under the former District Attorney, Tom Keith. O’Neill began working with the Forsyth DA’s office in 1997. Since taking office as DA in Forsyth County, he has implemented programs to deal with repeat offenders, target sexual predators, prosecute domestic violence and protect the elderly from abuse. O’Neill holds a law degree from New York Law School.