Who is running for attorney general in Michigan in 2022
LANSING — Come November, Michigan voters will choose between two polars vying to serve as the state’s top law enforcement official.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, is running for a second and final four-year term against presumed opponent Matthew DePerno, a Portage attorney who is known for his ongoing legal battles questioning the results of the 2020 election.
Nessel is a staunch progressive who says she won’t enforce a state law banning abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. DePerno is conservative and a favorite of former President Donald Trump who has claimed he will prosecute Nessel if he’s elected.
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The attorney general’s office has a $108 million budget. It represents the governor and Legislature in court and legal disputes. The office is tasked with ensuring consumer protection, public safety, civil suits, victims rights and addressing illegal business practices.
There isn’t a primary election for attorney general and secretary of state candidates in Michigan — candidates are instead chosen by delegates of their political parties.
Nessel went unchallenged to run for reelection at the state Democratic convention in April. DePerno defeated former House Speaker Tom Leonard and Rep. Ryan Berman in the GOP convention.
DePerno’s nomination won’t be official until August, but the party is treating winners of the endorsement convention as official nominees so they can begin campaigning for the November general election.
The post pays $112,000. Read on to learn more about the two candidates and follow the links for additional information from their official campaign websites.
Dana Nessel, incumbent Democrat
Dana Nessel, of Plymouth, is a former assistant prosecutor in Wayne County and defense attorney who became known for her work on a landmark case that found Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The case eventually helped lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage around the country.
Nessel is the first openly gay person to run for statewide office in Michigan, and won election in 2018 in a close race against Leonard.
Nessel campaigned on progressive causes such as shutting down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac and fighting for LGBTQ and immigrant civil rights.
She was vocal about reversing policies from her predecessor, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and fighting the Trump administration. During her tenure, she’s investigated abuse in the Catholic Church, handled criminal charges and investigations related to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal and has continued a legal battle with Enbridge over the pipeline, which is still in operation.
Nessel’s office also dismissed pending criminal cases tied to the Flint Water Crisis, saying it was reopening the investigation.
Nessel’s political style and sense of humor has won her fans, but alienated others. A recent comment — which she said was a joke — saying that all schools should have a drag queen prompted near immediate backlash, as did an admission that she had too much to drink at a college football game last fall.
Nessel’s office is currently investigating, at the request of the state’s GOP-led Senate Oversight committee, those who spread false information about the 2020 election "to raise money or publicity for their own ends."
Nessel attended the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Wayne State University Law School.
Matthew DePerno, Republican
Matthew DePerno is a Portage-based attorney best known for his lawsuit over Antrim County election results, which triggered ongoing conspiracy theories over voting machines and put him on the frontlines of Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 contest.
He also represented former state Rep. Todd Courser in a sex scandal cover-up case that concluded with Courser pleading no-contest no contest to willful neglect of duty by a public officer.
DePerno, endorsed by Trump, is a leading advocate for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election, something he continues to fight for in Antrim County.
The Antrim County case made DePerno a national figure in Trump’s campaign to overturn the election but prompted criticism from a Republican-led Michigan Senate panel that accused him of making false claims for personal profit. DePerno raised nearly $400,000 for an “Election Fraud Defense Fund” in 2020, and critics have urged him to disclose what he did with the money.
In addition to Nessel, DePerno has claimed he wants to prosecute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, both Democrats, for "for all the damage they have done" in office.
DePerno has also said he supports and would enforce the state’s 1931 ban on abortion.
As a tax attorney who worked primarily in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties, DePerno was fired from one law firm, fought over client records after leaving a second firm and was accused of assaulting a client amid a fee dispute, according to court documents and transcripts reviewed by Bridge.
DePerno sued the first firm over his firing and denied the allegations in court. But he told Bridge he cannot discuss details because of a confidential settlement.
DePerno’s supporters and many clients defend his legal work. One client told Bridge DePerno is a "workaholic" who goes to great lengths for his clients and is like an "encyclopedia" of law and the Constitution.
DePerno attended the University of Michigan and later earned law degrees from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and New York University School of Law.
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