News: CJ Exclusives

Democratic A.G. Primary Pits Insider Versus ‘Perennial Candidate’

Former deputy A.G. Stein faces Robeson County attorney Williams in contest to succeed Roy Cooper

Photo illustration
Photo illustration

The matchup in the Democratic primary for North Carolina Attorney General pits an insider against an outsider.

State Sen. Josh Stein, who worked in the North Carolina Department of Justice before being elected to the General Assembly, will face Robeson County attorney Marcus Williams.

Stein, a four-term senator from Raleigh, is seeking to succeed four-term Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is running for governor. Stein wants to return to the Justice Department, where he served as senior deputy attorney general in the area of consumer protection.

Stein’s campaign website touts his accomplishments during his tenure from 2001-08 against predatory lenders, online identity thieves, and companies engaged in unfair practices in this state.

He was elected to the state Senate in 2008 and has continued to be an advocate for consumer protection and civil rights in the legislature. Stein wants to continue those fights as attorney general, according to his campaign website. The three priorities Stein has embraced are promoting public safety, protecting seniors and consumers, and preserving clean air and water.

Stein presently holds a significant fundraising advantage as his campaign reported $1.49 million on hand at the end of 2015. He raised more than $500,000 during the last half of 2015.

Stein has experience with statewide races, having served on the campaign of U.S. Sen. John Edwards, and providing Edwards with legal counsel.

Stein is a graduate of Dartmouth College, and earned his law degree from Harvard University. He currently practices law in Wake County.

Stein has been active in the community, especially with Interact, a domestic violence prevention organization. He also serves on the advisory board of Triangle Family Services, which is dedicated to building healthy and secure families, according to his website.

Stein’s opponent is a self-described perennial candidate but he does not see that as a bad thing. Williams has run statewide numerous times as a long-shot candidate, including bids for governor and U.S. Senate. But he has yet to advance past a primary.

Williams has used those runs as a platform to create awareness, and stimulate debate about issues affecting African-American residents. He also has been active in local Democratic politics, including service as precinct chairman and organizer.

As an attorney, Williams touts his experience in both criminal and civil litigation.

“We need somebody with a steady hand, someone who has been able to relate to any culture or interact with anybody’s circumstances,” Williams said.

“Some people might call me a perennial candidate, but what I am is really a daily advocate,” Williams said. “We are in a critical situation in our state, and there are a lot of policies we’re living under that are designed to not help the citizens of our state.”

If elected attorney general, Williams said, he would push more accountability from police departments across the state. He also would continue to push for more stringent enforcement of environmental regulations in light of the coal ash spill into the Dan River at Eden. And he would like to work for a more tolerant society.

Williams said his political hero was President John F. Kennedy because of the changes he brought about in the 1960s.

Williams reported collecting less than $2,100 in contributions during 2015 and no cash on hand at the end of the year.