MINNEAPOLIS — The office of the Minnesota Attorney General has been held by Democrats since 1971. Two Republicans, Jim Schultz and Doug Wardlow, are running for a chance to end that streak.
They’re the two main candidates in Tuesday’s Republican primary for attorney general, the most hotly contested statewide primary.
"I felt called to step forward because I feel like we're losing the state I knew growing up. And frankly it starts with the incredible crime throughout our state, particularly in the metro," Schultz told KARE.
The corporate lawyer from Minnetonka won his party's endorsement at the GOP State Convention in May. Schultz has criticized DFL incumbent Attorney General Keith Ellison for supporting the unsuccessful Minneapolis City Charter ballot question that would've replaced the M-P-D with a department of public safety
"Nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop. But fundamentally we need to ensure that we're partnering with law enforcement, supporting them in the work they do, articulating that law enforcement is critical to the success of our state."
Schultz’s primary challenger Doug Wardlow is the attorney for My Pillow. With Mike Lindell's support, he won the party's endorsement in 2018 and lost to Ellison that year by just four percentage points. Wardlow shares his employer's still-unfounded belief that then-President Trump really won the 2020 election
"We need to make sure we understand what happened in the 2020 election. I believe that election was corrupt and stolen and I believe we need to investigate and prosecute voter fraud more aggressively. People who rig elections need to go to prison to set an example," Wardlow told State Capitol reporters recently.
The Attorney General's office most often makes the news for high-profile consumer protection cases, including situations in which Minnesota joins with other states. But the AG’s office also goes to bat in court for state agencies that are sued for enforcing the laws and other regulations.
The office also assists local prosecutors who request help on criminal cases. Ellison asked the legislature during the 2022 Session to increase funding for his criminal division, which is down to only three full-time prosecutors compared to 12 during the early 1990s.
The DFL-controlled House advanced the legislation, while it failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Senate. The session ended before the House and Senate could wrap up work on a final public safety bill.
Schultz says if he held that office, he wouldn’t wait for the legislature to send more money. He'd just shift more of the available budget to criminal cases.
"Ultimately, it's like running a business. Different priorities sometimes merit layoffs and hiring new people to do the job that's needed"
Wardlow agrees the office needs to put more resources into criminal prosecution, but he’s more focused on finding ways to prosecute abortion providers who break state laws.
He says he's devoted to bringing an end to abortion altogether in this state.
"I will wage war on Doe versus Gomez," Wardlow declared, referencing the 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that guaranteed access to abortion here and mandated that women on medical assistance programs could have their abortions paid for at taxpayer expense.
"There is no constitutional right to abortion. It's not in the text. It's not in the intent of the framers of the Constitution. It is nowhere to be found," Schultz remarked.
He slammed Ellison for pledging to legally defend women from other states who come to Minnesota for abortions.
Ellison won his first term in 2018 after serving 12 years in Congress representing Minnesota’s 5th District. Ellison was thrust into the spotlight when his office was asked to lead the prosecution in the murder trials of Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter.
As the lawyer for state agencies, Ellison was also charged with leading the enforcement of COVID-related business shutdowns enacted by Governor Tim Walz through emergency executive orders. Ellison is once again the DFL-endorsed candidate for attorney general and doesn’t face major opposition in the primary.
For more information on Minnesota's elections, please visit our Voter's Toolkit.