The Star Tribune Editorial Board erred in its decision not to endorse in the Minnesota attorney general’s race (“Two deeply flawed AG candidates,” Nov. 2). As two former Minnesota attorneys general, we can say with confidence that Keith Ellison is well-prepared to fulfill the important duties of this essential constitutional office and is the only reasonable choice for Minnesota voters in this election.
The board did get it right when it concluded that Doug Wardlow is unsuited for office. His pledge to politically purge “42 Democratic attorneys right off the bat,” and install a loyalty test for newly hired lawyers, is singularly disqualifying. The Minnesota attorney general should be concerned only with hiring the best attorneys to serve the people of Minnesota, not those eager to serve a political agenda. We were heartened to see Keith Ellison pledge this week to support civil service reforms in the Attorney General’s Office, to ensure that the political purge Wardlow has promised cannot occur under any future attorney general.
A deeper examination of Wardlow’s record and agenda makes clear that he is out of step with the priorities of this office, and of the people of Minnesota. One of the most important duties of the office is to protect Minnesota consumers, yet Wardlow has pledged to side with large corporations over individuals’ rights. And he has refused to support lawsuits against the opioid manufacturers who, like the cigarette companies that the Attorney General’s Office previously brought to account, have made millions off addiction and death in our state.
Even more fundamentally concerning is Wardlow’s distressing record on civil rights. He has stated that he is “proud” of the work he did for a far-right legal organization labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its discriminatory agenda. The organization has pushed lawsuits to allow legal discrimination at private businesses and against employees based on who they are and whom they love and has supported efforts to discriminate and deny health care coverage to women and to allow them to be harassed when seeking health care services at clinics.
Minnesotans need an attorney general who stands firmly on his values, and with our values. While Wardlow has publicly claimed to support criminal background checks on all gun sales, he has privately told supporters just the opposite. And when he insists publicly that he would not use the office to engage in federal politics, he turns around and tells his far-right base that he will use the office to support and defend President Donald Trump’s agenda in the courts.
Keith Ellison has always told Minnesotans exactly where he stands, and has acted on his word. He has been a strong advocate for equal opportunity and justice for all in Congress. He has the legal experience necessary to lead this public interest law firm. Over a 16-year career of civil rights and defense law, Ellison headed the state’s premier nonprofit public defense organization, the Legal Rights Center, for five years. He has real experience trying dozens of cases before the court and juries, experience that Mr. Wardlow lacks. Keith Ellison has the right priorities for the office, pledging to protect consumers and workers, and to enforce Minnesota’s strong civil rights laws to protect the rights of all.
Minnesotans have a clear choice for attorney general in this election. We urge all Minnesotans to support Keith Ellison for attorney general, to carry on the proud tradition of the office in standing up for the rights of ordinary Minnesotans. Minnesotans must reject Mr. Wardlow’s unjust and unequal plans for a radical political re-envisioning of the office.
Skip Humphrey served as Minnesota attorney general from 1983 to 1999. Walter Mondale is a former vice president and served as Minnesota attorney general from 1960 to 1964. Both are Democrats.