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U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop kicks off campaign for NC attorney general in Charlotte

Dan Bishop at a podium
Steve Harrison
U.S. Representative Dan Bishop kicked off his campaign with a press conference at Maggiano's. He's running for North Carolina attorney general.

Charlotte-area Republican Congressman Dan Bishop held his first news conference Wednesday as a candidate for North Carolina attorney general, where he said he would support law enforcement and added the Defund the Police movement was “ the stupidest move in politics in the history of America.”

Since Republicans took control of the U.S. House in January, Bishop has become a media star as a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

He was a key player in delaying Kevin McCarthy’s rise to House speaker, and was highly critical of the debt ceiling deal earlier this summer.

Bishop acknowledged that a state attorney general receives less media attention, but he said it’s an important position.

“If I want to go and pump up my profile and get clicks or whatever I would keep doing what I was doing and I’d be more outrageous and stay at it,” Bishop said at Maggiano’s restaurant in Southpark, where he spoke to a group of Charlotte Republicans. “But the call is to get in the fight, get in the effort in whatever way in the moment you believe you can best serve.”

Bishop said attorney generals nationwide have played key roles in shaping policy, such as suing the Biden administration over its plans to cancel student loan debt.

Bishop was one of the most polarizing state lawmakers last decade. He helped write the so-called bathroom bill, House Bill 2, in 2016.

If elected attorney general, he said his biggest priority would be using the bully pulpit to support North Carolina law enforcement.

“When public officials at high levels speak and undertake particular rhetoric results happen,” he said. “And so I’ve said the stupidest move in politics in the history of America has been to say we should defund our police.”

Bishop said he doesn’t have particular plans at this point to launch any investigations. He criticized the current attorney general, Democrat Josh Stein, for not committing to defend the state when sued.

“It is not the job of the executive branch to pick and choose,” he said.

While Stein defended the state’s photo ID law in court, he hasn’t said whether he will defend the state’s new ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Stein is running for governor.

Bishop also attacked Stein for his role in a settlement of a lawsuit before the 2020 election, in which the N.C. Board of Elections and the state agreed to extend the deadline to receive absentee mail ballots because of the pandemic. The decision to extend the deadline angered state Republicans, who said the General Assembly is the only body that can modify state election law.

Charlotte Congressman Jeff Jackson has been mentioned as a Democratic candidate for attorney general should state lawmakers draw a new congressional map this fall that puts him in a GOP-leaning district.

Bishop declined to criticize Jackson.

“I think Jeff is delighted to be in Congress. I think he really wants to stay there,” Bishop said. “All I can do is tell you who I am.”

Bishop was elected to Congress in a special election for the 9th District in 2019 after the N.C. Board of Elections refused to certify the results of the 2018 election because of mail ballot fraud.

A Republican hasn’t been elected North Carolina attorney general since 1896.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.