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VOL. 38 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 5, 2014

Candidates makes pitches for state attorney general post

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee Supreme Court justices on Monday heard candidates make their case for the next eight-year term as state attorney general.

The eight candidates spoke at a public hearing and were interviewed by the justices, who will appoint one of them. Tennessee is the only state where the high court appoints the attorney general.

Incumbent Attorney General Bob Cooper, whose term ended last month, is among those who applied for the job.

The 57-year-old prevailed among 14 applicants for the position in 2006. He previously served as legal counsel to then-Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who appointed the three Democratic justices - Gary Wade, Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark - who won their retention elections last month following a contentious campaign spearheaded by Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey to defeat them and give Republicans control of the state's highest court.

The court's two Republican justices, Holly Kirb y and Jeff Bivins, were appointed by current Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, and didn't have to stand for retention votes in August.

Ramsey's campaign heavily focused on Cooper's role as attorney general, including his refusal to join a multistate legal challenge to President Barack Obama's health care law.

Cooper referenced the lawsuit during his presentation on Monday.

"We were pushed by both sides in the Affordable Care Act lawsuit to join their position," he said. "We said no to both sides. It would not have been a wise use of state money. Its only purpose would have been to make a partisan political statement on a divisive national issue."

In making a case for reappointment, Cooper listed some of his successes, including $150 million in Medicaid fraud recovered through an initiative he started.

"When I applied for this job eight years ago, I told the court that I had the skills and experience needed to fill the role," he said. "After eight y ears on the job, those skills and experience have only been enhanced, and the results speak for themselves."

Other applicants are:

- Gino Bulso, 52, a partner with the Nashville firm Leader, Bulso & Nolan, which focuses on commercial litigation.

- Mark Fulks, 45, an attorney with the Baker Donelson law firm's Johnson City office, which represents clients in financial, commercial and employment matters.

- Will Helou, 36, a Nashville lawyer in private practice who previously worked as an assistant attorney general in Cooper's office.

- Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, 59.

- Herbert Slatery, 62, Gov. Bill Haslam's top legal adviser.

- Andrew Tillman, 62, a former chancery court judge from Huntsville, who was appointed to the bench by Haslam last year.

- Bill Young, 57, courts administrator.

Chief Justice Sharon Lee said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation must complete background checks on any finalists before the high court can make a decision, which could come as early as next week.

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