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Attorney General Josh Stein On His Role In Today’s Political Landscape

headshot of Josh Stein, NC flag in the background
Courtesy of NCDOJ

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has signed onto several federal lawsuits since taking office in January 2017. He joined 14 other Democratic attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. Earlier this month Stein signed on to a multi-state lawsuit to block a question about citizenship on the upcoming 2020 Census. A week later, he and 15 other Democratic attorneys general filed a motion to intervene in a Texas lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Stein about how the role of attorney general is changing in a hyper-partisan environment. Stein also talks about some of the policy issues he’s been working on, like the opioid epidemic and protecting North Carolinians from data breaches.

Interview Highlights

Stein on why he signed onto an initiative to block a census question about citizenship:
Things like school funding goes to a state for all the people in the state. Things like Congressional representation goes to all the people in the state: immigrants and citizens, and so it is essential to have a full and accurate count. And my concern is that the administration is trying to politicize the census to steer the results to favor them, and that's not what the census is about.

Stein on why he joined a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s order to end DACA:
The president certainly has plenty of authority, but the president, like every one of us, has to act within the confines of our constitution and federal law, and in this instance of the DACA program, he did not do that. There's actually an order by a court, a preliminary injunction, blocking his effort to abolish the program, because the court concluded that we are reasonably likely to prevail, that he was acting with animus towards Mexicans and that he did this in a way that didn't comply with federal statutory obligation of how you implement an executive order. And so I feel like it's not only the right thing to do, but the law is on our side, and that's why I took the action.

Stein on why he withdrew from the state’s gerrymandering cases:
I personally have withdrawn my role in those cases ... I did that simply because I think gerrymandering is so fundamental an issue to the health of our democracy. I needed to feel freed as a statewide elected official to be able to speak on what I think is a core issue to the fundamental health of our democracy.

Stein on gerrymandering:
North Carolina elected some Republicans, elected some Democrats. We're a 50/50 state, and heck I won by 50.25 percent, so I know about a 50/50 state. Yet our Congressional delegation is 77 percent Republican, 23 percent Democrat. Our state Senate is 70 percent Republican, 30 percent Democrat. There is no relationship between our representation and the will of the voters, and that is incredibly unhealthy for our democracy.


Amanda Magnus is the editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She's also the lead producer for on-demand content at WUNC and has worked on "Tested" and "CREEP."
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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