CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Gina Esquivel had to get creative when she started volunteering to get people to complete the census because of COVID-19.

While the census is key for some of our basic essentials provided by the government, it's also a point of controversy.

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This past summer North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, sued the Trump administration for what he says was attempting to illegally politicize the census and deny North Carolinians fair representation in Congress.

It's one of 31 lawsuits Stein's office has taken against President Donald Trump and the White House.

“I didn't run to sue the federal government, but when the federal government takes action that is without legal basis and hurts the people of this state, I will take actions,” Stein says.

It's part of the changing role of an AG in states around the country, according UNC Law Professor Rick Su.

“The role of the attorney general has evolved substantially and not just over the past couple years, but I would say over a couple of decades,” Su says.

While Su says battles with the federal government are sometimes political fights, he says there's another reason.

“The truth is the federal government has been a lot more active and involved in regulating a lot of issues that might affect the states,” Su says.

Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill is the Republican in this race.

He disagrees with how Stein has handled the AG role.

“It's hard to believe that one person has that kind of power where he can decide what's best for North Carolina as opposed to what the wishes of North Carolina actually is,” O'Neill says.

The office of attorney general has many roles, and right now both candidates say the fight against opioids needs to be a priority.

O'Neill says he's already started to tackle this in his current role by starting an incentive-based program in partnership with a pharmaceutical company where inmates, who want to get clean in Forsyth County, can work off their low-level offenses.

“As the attorney general, if I'm given that bully pulpit, I'll be sure to explain and visit all these other counties to be sure that people understand this excellent concept that's actually working and saving lives every single day,” O'Neill says.

Stein points to his focus on solutions that not only help people who are addicted, but also target drug traffickers.

“I want to thank the legislature, the Republican legislature because they passed three bills I championed, the STOP Act, the Synthetic Opioid Control Act, and the HOPE Act, all of which is about trying to fight this epidemic here in North Carolina," Stein says.