Vice President Mike Pence made a brief cameo in Minnesota this weekend in an appearance with Republican candidate for attorney general Doug Wardlow, while Democratic candidate Keith Ellison rallied with fellow Democrats at the State Capitol.
Wardlow greeted Pence with a Minnesota Vikings jersey after the vice president stepped off Air Force Two at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Saturday. Pence was passing through to attend a rally with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in Hudson.
Wardlow is seeking to become Minnesota's first Republican attorney general since 1971. He and Ellison, a U.S. congressman, have been locked in a close, rancorous contest for the office, with incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson not running.
"There is a lot of attention on the race — I think that's a good thing for the people of Minnesota because it's important to have an attorney general who is going to put the law first, put the law above politics, and I think the attention on the race is helping people understand just how important the office is," Wardlow said.
At the Capitol on Saturday, Ellison was introduced by nine prominent supporters — seven of them women. The supporters included longtime civil rights leader Josie Robinson Johnson; state Rep. Ilhan Omar; and Nina Turner, the president of Our Revolution.
While promoting Ellison, the speakers also offered sharp attacks on Wardlow.
"Doug Wardlow has fought so that my family doesn't exist," said state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, who is married to a woman. She was referring to Wardlow's legal work for a group that opposes same-sex marriage.
On Saturday, Wardlow promised to use the office to protect all Minnesotans "regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation" and spoke publicly for the first time about accusations from a high school classmate that Wardlow bullied him because he was gay.
"Those accusations, they're all completely false," Wardlow said. "And they are last-minute smear tactics by a failing campaign. The voters of Minnesota are rejecting Keith Ellison because of his extreme positions."
Ellison has also had to contend with allegations of untoward behavior. He has denied an allegation of domestic abuse by an ex-girlfriend. An investigation by the Minnesota DFL could not substantiate the allegation, and Ellison's divorce file had no allegations of domestic abuse against him.
Ellison, speaking in a raspy whisper after a period of intense campaigning, recalled people he'd met since his entrance in the race in June, including Minnesotans who couldn't afford medication and were victims of gun violence. He also recounted the legacies of previous attorneys general taking on health insurance, drug and tobacco companies.
"Now is the time to build on that legacy, not tear it down," he said.
Ellison charged that his opponent would politicize the office, pointing to a previous comment from Wardlow that he would fire Democrats if elected. Wardlow, meanwhile, insisted Saturday that he would rebuild the office's criminal law division and focus more on fighting meth and opioid addiction and human trafficking and protecting consumer rights.