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VOL. 38 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 08, 2014

Tennessee AG Bob Cooper to seek another 8-year term

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced Monday he will seek another eight-year term after three Democrats were retained on the Supreme Court.

Cooper, a former aide to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, had not divulged his plans before last week's election in which the three justices fended off a conservative effort to oust them.

"Tennesseans sent a clear message last week that they want an independent, nonpartisan judicial branch," Cooper said a release. "That is how I have run the Attorney General's office over the last eight years, and I am proud of our many accomplishments. I am strongly convinced the office must continue in this direction."

Tennessee is the only state in the country where the Supreme Court appoints the attorney general.

Republicans hold vast majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, and some leaders like Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey hoped to oust at least one of the justi ces to give the GOP a majority on the five-member court - and control of naming the next attorney general.

Cooper had drawn the ire of some Republicans for advising them against aggressive redistricting maps and for refusing to join a multi-state lawsuit against President Barack Obama's health care law. Cooper's term expires at the end of the month.

Cooper was legal counsel to Bredesen, who was succeeded by Republican Bill Haslam in 2011. Bredesen also appointed the three justices on last week's retention ballot: Justices Gary Wade, Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee.

Haslam named Republicans Holly Kirby and Jeff Bivins to the high court this year, but they won't face their first retention votes until 2016.

Ramsey poured at least $425,000 into the effort to oust the incumbent justices that included a blitz of TV ads and direct mail decrying the court as ultra-liberal and soft on crime. The justices raised more than $1 million in their successful effort to r emain in office.

Ramsey's office did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Cooper's bid for another term.

Republican lawmakers have periodically mulled changing the way Tennessee's attorney general gains office, with some calling for the General Assembly to have the power to appoint the state's top lawyer and others seeking popular elections. But any change would have to be made through a constitutional amendment, which would go before voters in 2018 at the earliest.

The high court announced it will take applications for attorney general through Aug. 29, followed by public hearings for any applicants found to be qualified.

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