Mar 12, 2024 - Politics

One of NC's spiciest races in 2024 is for a little-talked-about office

Photo illustration of Jeff Jackson and Dan Bishop.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Nathan Howard and Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The race to be North Carolina's top attorney could be one of the closest and most fiery in 2024 — and it's not because it's widely considered a coveted position.

Why it matters: Ordinarily, the attorney general race wouldn't command much attention. But Jeff Jackson and Dan Bishop are incredibly popular within their respective parties.

  • They're both former state lawmakers, and they're now working together as colleagues in Congress.

What they're saying: "This is a rare case where the candidates themselves will elevate the profile of the race," Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, tells Axios.

  • The results will depend heavily on party turnout, Cooper predicts.

Jackson has earned a reputation as an effective communicator who's amassed a strong TikTok and social media following for explaining what happens in Washington in layman's terms.

  • A member of the Army National Guard, he was an assistant district attorney in Gaston County.

Bishop started his political career as a Mecklenburg County commissioner and is a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

  • He was the main sponsor of House Bill 2 — the since-repealed state law that banned transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The law sparked political unrest and had widespread economic ramifications.

The intrigue: Bishop could be the state's first Republican attorney general in over a century.

Follow the money: The race started before Jackson was the confirmed Democratic nominee. Jackson's main opponent in the primary, Durham County district attorney Satana Deberry, got a boost from a mysterious PAC, WUNC reported. Jackson says Republicans were spending the money to keep him out of the general.

  • Jackson won the nomination with 54.86% votes, compared to Deberry's 33.08%.
  • Bishop's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for this story but sent links to Deberry's campaign videos.

Between the lines: As the state's top lawyer, the attorney general provides legal advice to the General Assembly and state officials.

  • Current AG Josh Stein has gained some popularity for taking on battles against issues impacting North Carolinians, from opioid companies fueling addiction to pesky robocalls.
  • If elected, Jackson said he would hone in on the fentanyl crisis. He also says he'd strengthen the state's defenses against scammers using artificial intelligence.
  • Bishop has said he'd use the office to restore law and order. In a WBT interview, he emphasized concerns about crime, from the U.S.-Mexico border to Uptown Charlotte, specifically calling out the shooting at Romare Bearden Park on New Year's Eve.
  • "It's going to be much more of a personality-based campaign," Cooper says.

The big picture: Bishop's campaign website accuses Democrats of using the AG office as a stepping stone for governor and "a platform to spread liberal propaganda."

  • Attorneys general often run for governor. Gov. Roy Cooper and Mike Easley served as state attorneys general. Stein is running for governor now.
  • Asked directly if the governor's mansion was his goal, Jackson said no.

By the numbers: Bishop and Jackson have saved up for an expensive and competitive showdown. Jackson has $1.8 million on hand, raised more than $2 million and spent just over $246,000 in the second half of last year. Bishop has $1.3 million, raised more than $439,000 and spent less than $63,000.

What's next: Bishop is known for aggressive campaign tactics. In 2019 he depicted Democratic politicians as inflatable clowns in an ad.

  • Bishop will go after Jackson's TikTok use. The AG's office investigated TikTok for harming children. (Jackson agrees the algorithm is designed to be addictive.) Questions about Jackson's TikTok use have arisen in Congress, too, as the app was banned from electronic devices managed by the House of Representatives.
  • Jackson will attack Bishop's controversial track record with House Bill 2. He called Bishop "Mr. Culture War," adding, "[Electing Bishop] would be a disaster for our state. I see the job as basically being a shield for people. And I think he sees it as a sword to use against some of them."
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