The three major candidates for Michigan attorney general in the Nov. 6 election have put criminals in prison during their law careers. But that's where the parallels end.
Dana Nessel, the Democratic nominee, is best known for successfully fighting to overturn Michigan's ban on gay marriage. Tom Leonard, the Republican contender, is a legislator occupying the most powerful post in the House. Chris Graveline is making history by getting on the statewide ballot as an independent with no party listed.
Their goal: Becoming Michigan's next chief law enforcer with a staff of 281 attorneys.
The attorney general's office serves as a public law firm, routinely representing state government agencies in all legal matters, large or small. But the boss, the elected attorney general, also has much freedom while serving a four-year term.
"Every attorney general has the ability to set two or three new priorities they can make their own," said Mike Cox, who had the job from 2003 to 2011 and sounded an alarm about Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes. "The attorney general has great discretion where they can take on issues that no one else has identified."
Here's a look at the candidates:
Nessel, 49, of Plymouth.
She made a provocative entry into the race by declaring that it's better to trust a candidate without a penis in an era of sexual harassment.
Nessel has been a Detroit-area prosecutor and defense attorney but made headlines as co-counsel in the historic lawsuit that led to same-sex marriage in Michigan. She said the case influenced her to run for office. She said Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette "made a mockery of state government" by bringing social scientists to court to knock the parenting skills of same-sex couples.
"There are LGBTQ people clamoring for representation and tired of the office of attorney general using them as a punching bag," said Nessel, who is gay.
The attorney general's office is overseeing criminal cases related to the Flint water crisis. Nessel said she would dismiss special prosecutor Todd Flood and bring in a new team to evaluate the cases.
Nessel said she would try to shut down Line 5, the oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. She said she would stop defending the state in certain lawsuits over the bungling of unemployment benefits, an issue now at the Michigan Supreme Court.
"The right thing to do is give people their money back. It's not to defend a state agency in any way you possibly can...