COLUMBIA, S.C. -- After three years as South Carolina’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Alan Wilson is taking the helm of an organization that works to elect more Republicans into that slot across the country.
But Wilson says he’s also looking forward to working with his Democratic counterparts on some issues.
Over his next year as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, Wilson will be campaigning on behalf of GOP prosecutors as they seek election or re-election.
During a meeting a few weeks ago in Charleston, Wilson was selected to serve as chairman of RAGA, a partisan group founded in the late 1990s that works to elect Republicans to top prosecutorial positions across the country.
Next year, more than a dozen incumbent GOP attorneys general — Wilson included — are up for re-election. As chairman, Wilson said he’ll be traveling the country to help promote those Republican candidates.
“I still believe the primary role of the attorney general is strictly state-centric,” Wilson told The Associated Press in a recent interview. He noted that his office focuses heavily on public safety issues in South Carolina such as sentencing reform and domestic violence legislation. “But ... it’s becoming more important for the AGs to become more involved in the national dialogue.”
Wilson has played a role in some of that national conversation during his first three years, taking part in lawsuits challenging parts of the federal health care reform act and the Dodd-Frank law, a sweeping financial regulation measure designed to prevent another economic crisis like the 2008 near-collapse. And he’s quick to point out that those suits sought to challenge the laws’ constitutionality and weren’t born out of partisan discord.
“I’m going to be criticized no matter what I do, so I’ve got be able to hang my hat on the law,” Wilson said. “As an attorney for the state, I can’t just challenge things I don’t like.”
His new role might be a politically partisan one, but Wilson said he is also looking forward to finding issues on which Republicans and Democrats can collaborate. Bi-partisan groups of prosecutors have already found common ground in some areas, Wilson pointed out, such as challenging the federal government on greenhouse gas regulations.
Other collaborations include the Badges for Baseball program, which Wilson learned about at a national conference and brought back to South Carolina. The effort serves at-risk youth, helping them learn life lessons from law enforcement mentors while participating in baseball- and softball-themed activities.
Another issue on which he’d like to work more with Democrats and Republicans is Iranian divestment, where attorneys general promote legislation that would divest state money from companies that do business with Iran.
“That’s extremely bipartisan,” Wilson said.
The position will naturally elevate Wilson’s national profile, but he said he’s not looking at any other office, past his current one, for now.
“I’m very happy right now. I don’t know what I might do,” Wilson said. “I might run for a third term. I might run for something else.”
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
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