Name as it appears on the ballot: Josh Stein
Campaign website: www.joshstein.org
Phone number: (919) 803-7803
Years lived in state: I grew up in North Carolina and have lived here for most of my life.
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing the attorney general’s office? If elected, how will you address those issues?
The Attorney General’s most important job is to protect the people of North Carolina from crime, corporate bad actors, and scam artists. We need an Attorney General with the independence to stand up to special interests and who will put the people first. As Attorney General, that’s what I’ll do.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
Between 2001 and 2008, I served as Senior Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Protection in the North Carolina Department of Justice. During this time I worked to ensure that big corporations played by the rules and treated people fairly. I brought and successfully resolved major cases against predatory lenders; helped run the payday lenders charging loan-shark interest rates out of North Carolina; took on monopoly utilities to keep electricity and water rates low; drafted and helped enact legislation to combat identity theft, abusive telemarketing, and predatory lending; and worked to improve safety features on social media sites to protect kids from sexual predators. I know the job of Attorney General so I won’t need any on-the-job training.
Since 2009, I have served in the state Senate and been a champion for public education, clean energy and public safety. I have worked to enhance protections for victims of domestic violence; expand the DNA database to take more violent criminals off the street; ban stalking through use of GPS tracking devices; and strengthen our DWI laws to keep more drunk drivers off the road. My work on the public’s behalf has earned recognition from diverse organizations including the Metro Mayors’ Association, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), North Carolina Association of Educators, AARP, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and the NC Justice Center.
3. What decisions has the current attorney general, Roy Cooper, made that you most agree and disagree with? How would you do things differently?
The core responsibility of the office is to protect the people of North Carolina. Yet the role of Attorney General is evolving as the current legislative leadership and Governor have made political decisions to remove the State Bureau of Investigation from the Department of Justice and to pay millions of taxpayer dollars to private outside counsel for duplicative legal services to those provided by the Department of Justice. As Attorney General, I will continue to focus on public safety and consumer protection while work diligently to respond to new challenges and the ever-changing needs of the state.
4. In what ways would your election benefit the citizens of North Carolina?
As Attorney General, I will protect families across North Carolina by cracking down on violent crime and reducing repeat crime through effective prisoner reentry programs. I will protect seniors and consumers by taking on scammers and corporations that break the law. And I will protect taxpayers by stamping out Medicaid fraud. As Attorney General, I’ll stand up for those who work hard and play by the rules and I’ll take on big corporations and politicians when they don’t – because no one is above the law.
5. Do you think political partisanship has any bearing on the office of the attorney general, or on the duties of the attorney general? How vigorously will you defend state laws that you personally disagree or believe to be bad policy?
I am concerned about the increasing politicization of offices of Attorney General around the country. The office of Attorney General should not become another front in the partisan political battles that are damaging our nation’s democracy. To this end, I will not use the office to score partisan political points. As an independent prosecutor, I’ll serve the people, not any national party or other powerful interests.
As Attorney General, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will uphold my oaths to support the Constitution of the United States; support, maintain and defend the Constitution of North Carolina, not inconsistent with the Constitution of the United States; and endeavor to have the criminal laws fairly and impartially administered, so help me God. It will be my duty and honor to represent the public and the state. I will defend the state unless state law is unconstitutional.
6. A recent report found that Republicans in the legislature and governor’s office have paid in excess of $8 million to outside attorneys, because they lacked confidence in Roy Cooper. Do you believe the use of outside counsel is wise? If elected, what would you do to regain the legislature’s trust?
The attorneys at the Department of Justice are highly capable public servants. It is their duty to represent the state, and these professionals do a good job doing that. The Governor and legislative leadership’s decision to pay millions of dollars to outside counsel to perform duplicative legal work is wasteful of the public’s money. Squandering these taxpayer dollars means that the state has fewer resources to invest in key priorities such as public education, which is a shame.
7. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
The role of the Attorney General is different than that of a legislator. Unlike a legislator who makes law, the Attorney General’s job is to enforce, execute and defend state law. As a result, there will be times when I defend my client, the state, even though I might not personally agree with the policy position taken by the state. I will seek to minimize these instances by advising my clients – the legislature and the Governor – to avoid actions that would be harmful to the people of North Carolina before those decisions are made.
8. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
A. The Information Sharing and Analysis Center can and does conduct surveillance on groups, including gangs, but also peaceful demonstrations. Due to the nature of the center's investigations, it is not a transparent agency. What can be done to make ISAC more accountable to the public?
A central challenge facing government in the 21st century is balancing the need for security, including cybersecurity, and civil liberty including the right to privacy and freedom of speech. These competing needs are best balanced through public discourse and debate. As it relates to ISAC, an independent oversight commission could serve to increase its accountability to the public. A commission could help establish policy frameworks to further ISAC’s work and ensure it best achieves its goals of security and respect of the citizenry.
B. How would you better enforce and monitor the open records and meetings laws? What sanctions should be levied on those who break them?
Transparency in public affairs is critical for the people to be able to hold their government and representatives accountable. For this reason, I am fully committed to our state’s open meetings and public records laws. I find it distressing that media outlets have been forced to sue the current administration for failing to comply with these important laws. As Attorney General I will work to ensure government agencies understand and abide by the law.
C. On the Clean Air Act, how should the attorney general’s office more effectively pursue, through its environmental division, businesses and industries contributing to air pollution? What sanctions should be in place, if any? Are current penalties strong enough?
The Attorney General plays an important role in protecting the public’s interest in clean air and water. In recent years, the Attorney General has reached settlements to improve the quality of the air we breathe and to improve the quality of the water we drink. The office must continue to hold corporate polluters accountable. I have a long record in the legislature of working to clean and protect our air and water, including having authored the legislation to clean Falls Lake. For my work in the Senate, I have been recognized by environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the Conservation Council of North Carolina.
9. As a member of the Council of State, you would have input on the issue of the death penalty, including the execution protocol. Do you feel qualified to vote on such issues? If so, how would you vote on the execution protocol and other death penalty matters that may come before the council? Is the Council of State an appropriate body to deliberate these issues?
As a member of the Council of State, I will make certain I have the knowledge and understanding to properly carry out my responsibilities as they relate to this matter. I will consult broadly with public safety officials, the legal community, pharmaceutical experts, and the medical community.