Protecting North Carolina: An Interview with NC Attorney General Josh Stein
Josh Stein is the 50th and current North Carolina Attorney General.
Josh Stein grew up in a family that emphasized serving others.
“I wanted to get into public service and politics is an important way you can contribute. So I was just raised that each of us should do our part to make things just or fair for people. I ended up backing into politics, but I love it.”
Stein gained crucial experience for his current position years before he sought it. As Senior Deputy Attorney General under then-AG Roy Cooper, Stein headed the Consumer Protection Division.
“In that job for eight years I got to see, up close, the potential of what the Attorney General can do.”
His tasks in that post varied, as they took on predatory lenders, payday lenders and helped protect seniors from identity theft. Seeing demonstrable results that benefited North Carolinians informed Stein’s decision to run in 2016.
“I just knew it was a great way to look after the people of North Carolina, and when the opportunity arose with Cooper vacating the office to run for Governor, I jumped at it.”
As AG, Stein is tasked with protecting the rights of North Carolinians. Sometimes, that involves taking on the federal government. The federal Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has recently announced intentions to severely punish drug-related crimes.
“He’s wanting to have maximum punishment for people committing drug offenses, and I think that’s a backward way of looking at things,” Stein said. “I don’t believe drugs should be legal, but we should be focused more on trying to help people overcome their drug addiction rather than imprison them for it.”
Although they may diverge sometimes, Stein has no interest in flippantly suing the feds.
“I didn’t run for the office to sue the federal government. I ran for the office to protect the people of North Carolina. But if the federal government is hurting North Carolina, or impinging on the rights and values of the people of North Carolina, I won’t hesitate to stand up for them, and that’s what I feel like I’ve been doing.”
Some of the litigation involved making sure student borrowers get protections owed to them, and those entitled to health insurance can acquire it. Other efforts involve speaking out against actions that the Trump Administration have taken that undermine efforts to combat climate change.
Stein has found success from working in tandem with fellow Attorneys General in other states.
“We have held some big corporations accountable like Moody’s and Volkswagen,” he noted. “I think there are a lot of instances where Attorneys General working together collectively will help us each do a better job protecting the people of our own states.”
“These are all things that really affect people in North Carolina and that’s what my job is, to protect the people of North Carolina.”
The AG also commented on the new districts presented by the Stanford professor, Nathaniel Persily, selected to rectify maps challenged in the courts.
“My view is, it should be fairer to the voters of North Carolina and that representation reflects the wishes of the voters. I can’t predict the future in terms of what the election climate will be a year from now, and we don’t even know what the districts are going to be.”
Stein knows how closely contested North Carolina elections can be.
“When you have a state that’s 50-50, that North Carolina is, and I can tell you as somebody who won by 24,000 votes out of 4.7 million votes cast, that this is a 50-50 state, but the Republican representation in the legislation is more than 2-to-1, that’s out of balance,” Stein said. “It’s not healthy for our democracy.”
As for the future, Stein hopes to retain his current post.
“I have loved serving as Attorney General. I think it’s highly likely that I will run for reelection and I hope that the voters give me another chance."