Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams says his 37 years practicing law makes him more experienced than the other three candidates for attorney general.
“I’ve had a tsunami of cases I had to deal with, both in civil and criminal,” he said. “The insight you gain from that, I don’t think you can learn on the job.”
Williams faces a big challenge in the March 15 Democratic primary. His opponent, state Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh, has raised about $1.5 million for his campaign. Williams – who has received less than 10 percent of the vote in previous statewide campaigns – ended 2015 with no major contributions.
“I have the message, other people have the money,” Williams said, adding that he’s been “pounding the ground” to speak at events across the state.
In many of his stops, Williams criticizes the actions of the Republican state legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory. He calls for “tax fairness” and the return of the earned income tax credit. He says the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid is “political malpractice.” He opposes the elimination of teacher tenure and says McCrory shouldn’t be involved in coal ash cleanup.
None of these decisions, of course, can be reversed by the attorney general. Williams says the position would give him a “bully pulpit” to make his case to legislators.
He says the attorney general should push for more court funding, pointing to a backlog of 50 murder cases in Robeson County. He says legislators and the governor are wasting millions on outside attorneys to defend controversial laws because Attorney General Roy Cooper is a Democrat.
But Williams says if he doesn’t think a law is legally defensible, “the attorney general has a zone of discretion” and he’d decline to defend that law while giving legislators “ample time to make alternative arrangements.”
Education: Law degree from the University of Minnesota, bachelor’s degree in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill
Family: Married to Althea Williams with no children
Job: Attorney in private practice; former assistant public defender, former executive director of Legal Services of the Lower Cape Fear
Politics: Ran for U.S. Senate in 2008 and 2010 and for governor in 1992; served as student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1974-75 and at the University of Minnesota School of Law in 1977-78
Worth knowing: Williams represented black voters in a Columbus County lawsuit that resulted in a new county commissioner election system that helped more minorities get elected