Three Republicans want to unseat Attorney General Josh Stein

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein

RALEIGH — Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein has no primary challengers this year, but three Republicans want to unseat him.

Sam Hayes, Christine Mumma and Jim O’Neill are the Republicans running to be the one to face Stein, a well-financed incumbent currently sitting on cash-on-hand of over $3.8 million — half a million of which Stein himself loaned to his campaign.

According to campaign finance reports, roughly 30% of Stein’s donations came from individuals outside of the state; and over 290 of them from California alone. Notable donations to Stein’s campaign include the maximum donation of $5,400 each from George Soros and from presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

Stein was a state senator for Wake County for eight years. The 2016 race for attorney general was close, with Stein beating Republican Buck Newton by an extremely thin margin of just over half of one percent. Prior to running for state senate, Stein worked for former U.S. Sen John Edwards from 1997 to 2000. He was also a Senior Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Protection from 2001-2008.

Stein holds an B.A. in history from Dartmouth College and a J.D. and M.P.P. in Law and Public Policy from Harvard University. He is married and has three children.

Hayes’ most recent filing shows his cash-on-hand coming in at $10,401, with $21,450 raised overall so far this cycle including a loan to his campaign from himself of $10,000.

“After nearly 150 years of Democrats controlling the Department of Justice, it’s time for a change. We need experienced, conservative leadership, and I am the only conservative in this race. I have the background and, in fact, I have already been doing the work that the past two AGs have refused to do” says Hayes on his website.

Hayes is an attorney who graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1994 with a major in Economics and a minor in Business Administration. He has served as general counsel in two cabinet agencies, in the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality during Gov. Pat McCrory’s term and later in the Department of the State Treasurer in 2017. Hayes lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Adriane and their two children.

Christine Mumma’s finance reports show contributions from individuals this cycle making up $85,486 of the $338,031 total she has raised. The remainder comes largely from two loans Mumma to her campaign totaling $252,500. Notable donations include $500 from Jim Blaine, former staffer to Sen. Berger and influential political consultant. “The former News & Observer Tar Heel of the Year. The candidate who believes in the sanctity of life, will defend the rule of law, and is unafraid, honest, and ready to stand up to put principles before politics,” said Mumma’s website.

Mumma launched a TV ad going after Jim O’Neill, claiming that he supports the release of illegal alien criminals back into society. In his own web ad, O’Neill says he “works daily with ICE” and pledges that if elected, he will get rid of sanctuary cities.

Mumma’s ad is likely drawing from a Feb. 6 joint press conference held by Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough Jr. and O’Neill. At that conference, Kimbrough announced that Winston-Salem will stop honoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers on illegal aliens who were arrested in Forsyth County.

The main theme of her campaign site is criminal justice reform. Since 2001, she has served as executive director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence.

Mumma went to UNC Chapel Hill for her undergraduate degree in Business Administration. She worked for nine years in finance and business management before decided to go to law school. Mumma attended UNC law and clerked for the late state Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, Jr. Mumma, who lives in Durham, is married and has three children.

The most recent campaign filing show $322,312 current cash-on-hand for O’Neill, with roughly 96% of his receipts coming from individual contributions.

“Jim believes it’s time for an Attorney General with prosecutorial experience,” said O’Neill on his campaign website. “As North Carolina’s Attorney General, Jim will focus on clearing the decades-old backlog of untested rape kits, defending capital case murder convictions, combating the heroin and opioid crisis, and bringing a mission of safety, security and justice to the state.”

O’Neill has one web ad titled “Dishonesty” that is directed at Christine Mumma. O’Neill’s ad also raises state bar accusations about Mumma, claiming she acted unethically and dishonestly. It also describes Mumma as “an activist lawyer,” and claims she set a convicted child rapist free.

The individual in the case the ad refers to, Joseph Abbitt, was exonerated of charges he raped two teen girls in 1991 after a motion to vacate the convictions against him was jointly filed by Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, where O’Neill works and the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, where Mumma worked.

The joint motion was based on new DNA evidence taken from the body of the victim that didn’t match Abbitt. Winston-Salem Police said evidence from a sheet did match Abbitt, that there was a rush to free him and maintained that he was still their main suspect. In 2015, just five and a half years after being released, Abbitt died as the result of a head-on traffic collusion.

His campaign has been endorsed by fellow Republican district attorneys and sheriffs from across North Carolina including Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page.

O’Neill has served as Forsyth County District Attorney since Nov. 2009. He is a graduate of Duke University and received his law degree from the New York Law School. O’Neill lives in Winston-Salem with his wife, Dr. Oona O’Neill. They have three children.

About A.P. Dillon 222 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_