Calliope, Part Two — The Race for Attorney General

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While the race for governor is certainly the most consequential of this election cycle, the attorney general matters quite a lot, too. And it's going to be interesting now that Lori Swanson has decided to run for governor.

The big fish on the DFL side is Keith Ellison, who has been in Congress for six terms and until recently served as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee. The term "problematic" is overused, but that's Ellison. He's never quite gotten around to disavowing his previous support of Louis Farrakhan and he's mostly gotten by with a compliant local press burying his misdeeds. A guy who likes to skirt the law ought not be Attorney General, but he has to be the favorite, even though there are plausible alternatives. The endorsed DFL candidate, Matt Pelikan, has no chance, despite the value of the endorsement. He's a DFL activist from Northfield who was able to run Swanson off by trashing her intermittent support for gun rights and by being more woke generally, but he's a silly candidate in every other respect. There are also three other plausible candidates on the DFL side, including Rep. Debra Hillstrom of Brooklyn Center, who is an Anoka County prosecutor for her day job. Hillstrom would likely perform in office like Swanson has; if you have to have a DFLer in the position, she'd be competent. Another candidate, Mike Rothman, served as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. He's a bright guy but he's coming out of the bureaucracy and it's not clear he has the presence to get past the other candidates. Also in the race is Tom Foley, who was Ramsey County Attorney years ago. He could certainly do the job, but he's getting long in the tooth. Ellison has to be the favorite, but he'd be a disastrous pick for the job. It would have been better if Rothman and Foley had dropped out, leaving Hillstrom to run, but that didn't happen. Advantage: Keith Ellison.
On the Republican side, the endorsed candidate is Doug Wardlow, who served one term in the Minnesota legislature. In an ordinary year, he'd be the latest Republican sacrificial lamb, but he might have a chance, particularly if Ellison is the candidate for the DFL. Wardlow is a bright guy and a solid conservative; if he could win, he'd be great. Just before the filing deadline, Wardlow got a challenger, the longtime state senator from International Falls, Bob Lessard. Lessard is a legend, but he's a legend because he's 87 years old. While I have great respect for his service to the state, he's past his sell-by date by at least 15 years. Advantage: Doug Wardlow.

We'll look at some more races in the coming days.