As Roy Cooper works to move 16 years’ worth of papers and personal items out of the attorney general’s office, one of his former deputies will begin moving his own things in.
Josh Stein was sworn in as the state’s new attorney general Sunday at noon, about 12 hours after his old boss took the oath of office to become governor.
Stein was Cooper’s senior deputy attorney general for consumer protection in 2001-08 before resigning to run for the N.C. Senate. A Democrat, he represented Cary and other parts of Wake County in 2009-16.
Now, as attorney general, Stein will be the state’s top lawyer and law enforcement officer. Building on his roots in consumer protection, he said families in North Carolina will get much of his attention for the four years of his term.
“That means cracking down on violent crime, confronting the opioid epidemic and reducing repeat crime through effective prisoner re-entry programs,” Stein said in a press release. “I’ll protect seniors and consumers from scammers and corporations that break the law. And I’ll work closely with communities across the state to ensure that I’m hearing from North Carolinians about how best I can serve them.”
In addition to helping local law enforcement go after criminals of both the violent and white-collar variety, the attorney general’s office defends the state in court and advises legislators and other state leaders on legal issues. Cooper sometimes took flak for refusing to appeal unfavorable court rulings.
But Stein could also sometimes see himself on the opposite side of the state legislature.
In 2014, then-Gov. Pat McCrory sued the legislature for taking away some of his office’s power. Then-Attorney General Cooper, a Democrat, represented Republican McCrory against the General Assembly, ultimately winning the case at the N.C. Supreme Court.
And 2017 looks like it will provide several instances for Stein’s office to be called in on government-versus-government lawsuits.
The N.C. State Board of Education has already filed a lawsuit challenging a new law that stripped away some of the board’s power and gave it to the newly elected Republican state superintendent.
Cooper, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit of his own challenging a new law that revamped the state’s election boards in order to give Republicans more power over voting issues. And he has suggested that more lawsuits are possible.
Others take office
Stein and Cooper weren’t the only two elected officials to be sworn in Sunday, although they’re the most high-profile ones.
Joining in the as-early-as-possible swearing-in ceremonies were Mike Causey and Dale Folwell.
Causey, a Greensboro Republican, is the new state insurance commissioner. He defeated incumbent Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat, in Causey’s fifth run for the office. The insurance commissioner is tasked with regulating insurance companies and helping North Carolinians with insurance complaints.
Folwell, a Winston-Salem Republican, is the new state treasurer. He succeeds Janet Cowell, a Democrat who didn’t run for re-election. The treasurer is tasked with overseeing the state pension fund and administering the state health plan.
“I plan on ‘opening the books’ for the people to see where their money is, how it is performing and what fees are being paid,” Folwell, a former speaker pro tem of the N.C. House, said in a news release Sunday.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran