Do we really need another statewide office on the ballot in Tennessee? Republicans in the state General Assembly seem to think so.
Lawmakers are once again pushing legislation to require the state’s attorney general be popularly elected. Before advancing this bad idea, we urge legislators should examine how this approach has worked in states like Virginia and Massachusetts, where the elected job of attorney general has been used in recent years by eager politicians as a launching pad to run for governor or the U.S. Senate.
As we’ve noted in this space before, our constitution here in Tennessee has spared us from such political opportunists. Currently, the office of the attorney general and reporter is appointed to an eight-year term by justices of the state Supreme Court. The system has worked well. The attorney general in Tennessee spends his time on serious legal matters, not politics.
Even so, a bill that would amend the state Constitution to allow for popular election of the attorney general has resurfaced in the state Senate this week.
Not surprisingly, supporters have yet to offer up any compelling arguments as to why a system that has worked well for more than 130 years should be changed. We believe the framers of the constitution knew what they were doing in devising a system that insulates the state’s top attorney from the ballot box.
We don’t need to create another statewide office that will likely be misused by the politically ambitious as a stepping stone for higher office.