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Meet the candidates for North Carolina attorney general, Josh Stein and Jim O'Neill

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Incumbent John Stein (left), Democrat and Jim O'Neill, Republican, are the candidates for North Carolina attorney general. Photos courtesy of O'Neill and Stein.

The November election is coming up, so The Daily Tar Heel is breaking down every state and local office on the ballot from governor to county commissioner. Here we broke down who the candidates are for North Carolina attorney general.

North Carolina voters will have two candidates on their ballot for North Carolina attorney general come November: incumbent Democrat Josh Stein and Republican Jim O’Neill. 

Stein, a Chapel Hill native, is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. He served in the N.C. Senate from 2009 to 2016. 

In the 2016 general election, Stein won by less than one percent of the vote against his opponent, Republican Buck Newton. 

O’Neill is serving his third term as Forsyth County district attorney. A graduate of Duke University and New York Law School, O’Neill was appointed district attorney in 2009. 

Apart from his professional duties, which focus on prosecuting violent offenders, O’Neill serves on boards for organizations including Hospice, Exchange/SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) and the Industries for the Blind and Senior Services.

In North Carolina, the attorney general represents all state government agencies, departments and commissions in legal matters, provides legal opinions to state leadership and initiates court proceedings on behalf of the state in matters of public interest. 

In one of our surveys, UNC students told us they cared about civil rights, health care, student debt and the environment. Here's where the candidates stand on some of those issues.

O’Neill did not respond to requests for an interview, so the following information is sourced from his campaign website and social media channels.

Civil rights

Stein named racial discrimination in criminal justice as the issue that is most important to him. Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Stein and N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls as co-chairpersons of the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.

“We're having a long overdue reckoning on racism in this country,” he said. “We have to meet this moment.”

Stein, in a broader statement on civil rights, said he believes everyone should be treated equally, no matter who they are.

“That means no matter their gender or gender identity; their race; their sexual orientation; their nationality; their language; their faith,” he said. “People are people.”

O’Neill’s statements on civil rights are few, but he does boast endorsements from Republican sheriffs statewide. He has been vocal about his support of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the immigration policies it enforces.

O’Neill takes a strong stance condemning violence against women and elders. As Forsyth County’s first dedicated domestic violence prosecutor, he instituted a prosecution program targeting local sex offenders, along with programs focused on those who abuse the elderly.

Health care

Stein said he believes every American should have access to affordable health care.

“I think we should have universal health care coverage, that the state of North Carolina should expand Medicaid,” he said. “I am in the U.S. Supreme Court next week defending the Affordable Care Act.”

O’Neill co-founded an opioid addiction program to help drug offenders get and stay clean through the use of Vivitrol, a drug that blocks the high people experience on opioids. Those who meet treatment criteria are able get their felony charges reduced or dropped.   

“This is a tremendous program that we started here in Winston-Salem,” he said in a press conference with UNC-TV in early September. “We're seeing tremendous effects in our own community.”

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Student debt

Stein said he is deeply concerned about the amount of debt students must carry in order to access higher education. He believes community college should be free. 

He said he has been challenging predatory for-profit schools and student loan servicers that mistreat their borrowers.

“I've been forced to sue the Secretary (of Education) Betsy DeVos on a number of instances where she has made it harder for students who have been wronged by lenders and schools to seek justice,” he said.

Relevant information regarding O’Neill’s position on student debt could not be found.


The environment is an issue Stein has approached multiple times in his work as attorney general. During his term, he challenged Duke Energy by appealing the North Carolina Utilities Commission’s decision to force taxpayers to pay for Duke’s clean-up of coal ash. 

“I’ve taken polluters to court to make them pay for their messes,” he said. 

He has also sued the Trump administration to fight its efforts to weaken the Clean Air and Water Acts.

Relevant information about O’Neill’s stance on the environment could not be found.


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