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State attorneys general, perennial losers when they ran for governor in the 1980s and 1990s, have been on a winning streak in recent years and may end up holding the top office in more states than ever after the November elections. There are currently six governors who have been attorneys general in their careers. Another four-Democrat Eliot Spitzer of New York, Republican Charlie Crist of Florida, Democrat Mike Hatch of Minnesota and Democrat Mike Beebe of Arkansas-are running for governor in their respective states. If the new aspirants win and four incumbents hold their offices, one-fifth of the nation’s states will have a former AG in the governor’s office. “Attorneys general have had a pretty successful cycle in 2002 and 2004 and they’re running very well in 2006,” James Tierney, the director of the National State Attorneys General program at Columbia Law School. It’s a clear departure from recent past performance, if not necessarily a sign of things to come, said Tierney, a former attorney general in Maine who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1986. Current governors who were formerly AGs include Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski, Arizona’s Janet Napolitano, Wisconsin’s Jim Doyle, Washington’s Christine Gregoire, Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm and North Carolina’s Michael Easley. Doyle, Granholm, Napolitano and Kulongoski are up for re-election. The attorney general post has long been seen as a stepping stone to governorship-the National Association of Attorneys General is sometimes nicknamed National Association of Aspiring Governors. The most famous attorney-general-turned-governor is former President Bill Clinton, who held the posts in Arkansas. Gubernatorial prospects for attorneys general improved as the top prosecutors stepped into the spotlight with high-profile cases, former AGs said. The states’ prosecution of tobacco companies in the late 1990s was seminal because AGs achieved a higher profile in banding together and pooling their resources, they said. A ‘can-do office’ “It showed that attorney generals’ office was a can-do office,” said Dave Frohnmayer, a former Oregon attorney general who is now president of the University of Oregon. Frohnmayer ran for governor in 1990 and lost, as did seven other AGs that year. The stature of the office also rose as more antitrust and consumer-protection authority shifted to states under deregulation, allowing AGs to go beyond their traditional “top cop” roles to tackle cases in health care and education, said Jerry Pappert, a former Pennsylvania attorney general who is now at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in Philadelphia.

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