By Mike Kaszuba

Holding his first press conference on the eve of the state Republican convention, Republican Chris Barden said Wednesday that Minnesota needs an attorney general who will challenge the constitutionality of the sweeping federal health care legislation passed by Congress and President Obama.

Barden, a lawyer, psychologist and expert witness, criticized state Attorney General Lori Swanson for refusing to join a lawsuit challenging the health care legislation, and said that DFLers had held the office for too long and had in recent years mismanaged it.  He said his belief that the health care legislation should face a constitutional challenge played a large role in him making a late entry into the race, and acknowledged that he "didn't even know anybody over at the Republican Party probably three months ago."

"This is my first press conference -- ever.  I hope it went OK," he said after he spoke to reporters at the State Capitol, accompanied by his wife and four children.

Even before Barden stepped before the microphone Wednesday he drew criticism from the state DFL Party, which in a statement said Barden had only moved back to Minnesota following an unsuccessful school board race in Utah and said he was unqualified for the job.  "His primary occupation is earning top dollar as a hired expert witness for and against psychologists, psychiatrists, priests and patients in personal-injury trials, malpractice claims and criminal matters," a party spokesman said in a statement.

In response, Barden said he had moved back to Minnesota in 1992 but spent time in Utah caring for his mother-in-law until moving back permanently in August 2007.  "I've been paying taxes here since '92," he said.

Barden criticized Swanson for a series of widely-reported episodes of dissension in her office, including a large number of attorneys who left following her own election.  He also said that Swanson should have taken a more major role to prevent problems in the 2008 election that led to the U.S. Senate recount.  "I don't think anybody knows" whether there was widespread voter fraud in the election, he said.

But Barden made clear that Swanson's decision not to challenge the recently-passed federal health care legislation was a major reason for his candidacy.  A briefing paper from his campaign, released Wednesday, said that "for the first time there is a high visibility national issue of importance framing the AG race."

"I predict the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the attempt to mandate the purchase of government-controlled health insurance," Barden said in the briefing paper.

"These powers should be challenged," he told reporters Wednesday.  "Where's the legal precedent for the government mandating coming into your home and telling you you have to buy a particular product?"

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