Democratic nominee for Texas Attorney General Justin Nelson, center, and others address supporters of the Affordable Care Act protest during a rally at Burnett Park in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Democratic nominee for Texas Attorney General Justin Nelson hosted the Fort Worth Rally for Preexisting Coverage Protection.
Pre-existing conditions coverage isn't just a tagline in congressional races: It has become a Democratic rallying cry for would-be attorneys general as well.
In the wake of the anti-Obamacare lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Democratic attorneys general and hopefuls are adopting the playbook deployed by Democratic congressional candidates nationwide. They're using the litigation's target of popular consumer protections as a cudgel.
But there is much tighter correlation in attorney general races. Twenty Republican states joined Paxton to sue to overturn Obamacare after the GOP-led Congress effectively eliminated the law's individual mandate penalty to buy insurance. Most of the plaintiffs are GOP attorneys general, and the case is still pending in federal court.
The Trump administration sided with the Republican attorneys general to repeal the Affordable Care Act's consumer protection provisions. Then Democratic attorneys general led by California's Xavier Becerra stepped in to defend the law and protections for pre-existing conditions.
Now, Democratic candidates for attorney general in the states that joined the lawsuit are fully leveraging the lawsuit and its potential implications.
In Texas, Paxton's Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, is running a national grassroots campaign called #MyPreExisting to generate more attention to the case, which is also featured in his advertising.
Democrat Josh Kaul, running to displace Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, is also featuring pre-existing conditions coverage in his ad campaign.
And they aren't alone: Democratic candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio are all broadcasting the issue in their campaigns.
The lobbying group for Democratic attorneys general has also stepped in to support their candidates with a video explaining the lawsuit.
"We regularly see coverage and hear conversations about the role the Senate or the role the House play in the healthcare debate—but right now, the real action is happening at the state AG level," said Sean Rankin, executive director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. "With the Trump administration refusing to defend the federal healthcare statute against the GOP lawsuit, the role of the Democratic attorneys general in preserving meaningful healthcare is more crucial than ever."