Mike Rothman has resigned as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce to run for state attorney general, he announced Friday in a news release.
Rothman joins Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and former state Rep. Ryan Winkler in the race for the DFL nomination for attorney general. Former Eagan state Rep. Doug Wardlow is a Republican candidate.
Rothman’s entry in the race for attorney general is another indication that Attorney General Lori Swanson is planning a run for governor, though she has not yet publicly announced her 2018 plans.
Rothman touted his accomplishments at the Commerce Department in a news release announcing his departure, including working to “protect consumers, advance Minnesota’s clean energy economy, enhance financial education and outreach, and protect the public interest.”
But Rothman has been a polarizing figure in the administration of Gov. Mark Dayton, drawing frequent criticism from Republicans in what otherwise might be a low-profile job.
“Rothman’s tenure was stained by his failure to protect Minnesota consumers and tax dollars,” said Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, in a news release. She cited failures of MNsure — the state’s health insurance exchange — and an overly adversarial relationship with business, among several other issues.
“These are not just the failings of one misguided public official, but systemic issues,” Fenton said.
Dayton, who thanked Rothman for his service in a news release, appointed Jessica Looman to serve as the new commerce commissioner.
Looman has been deputy commissioner for the Department of Labor and Industry since 2014. She was also assistant commissioner and previously a labor lawyer for the construction trades.
“She has done an outstanding job improving the efficiency of the Labor Department and its services — ensuring workers and consumers get the protections they deserve, and businesses get the quick and quality services they expect,” Dayton said.